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Here's What You Should Know About Diabetes

01 July 2022

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is a condition that affects at least 420 million people around the world. This chronic disease affects how your body processes sugar. When you have diabetes, either your pancreas (which produces the hormone insulin) or your body cells don’t respond normally to insulin, resulting in a higher than normal amount of sugar in the blood.

Although diabetes can be managed by adhering to lifestyle and diet advice, blood sugar control remains challenging for many people with the disease. This Diabetes Week 2022 (running from 13 to 19 June), we’re raising awareness of the chronic condition. Here's what you need to know:

What is diabetes?

The human body produces insulin, which is a hormone that helps glucose from the food you eat (carbohydrates) to get absorbed into your blood so that your cells can use it for energy. The pancreas makes insulin in response to the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.

If a person has diabetes, this means their body either doesn't make enough insulin or their body's cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Glucose builds up in the blood, and can be detected when a person undergoes medical tests.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose level may be high. This could cause:

● Fatigue. This is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes. It’s often a result of being tired after an extended period of glucose overload in the body because of inadequate insulin secretion or action by cells.

● Breathlessness and anxiety. Blood-sugar levels can increase in pregnant women and can cause high blood pressure in children who are not yet fully grown, which can lead to swelling in the legs (known as polyuria) or arms (polydipsia).

● Weight loss. People with diabetes may lose weight quickly, but they need to check their weight often because it can increase quickly.

● Problems passing urine. The kidneys release glucose into the urine, which can cause dark-coloured urine and an urge to pass water. In the presence of high blood glucose levels, it can also increase the amount of proteins in the urine and affect the body's electrolyte balance.

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Diabetes is usually confirmed through a blood test. It generally occurs when a person's blood glucose level is higher than normal or if they have a form called gestational diabetes (which affects pregnant women).

How is diabetes treated?

Treatment of diabetes depends on the type of diabetes you have. If you have type 1, which means your body doesn't produce insulin, you will need insulin injections. People with type 2, so your body doesn't make enough insulin, may need to eat in a way that helps their bodies' cells respond well to insulin or they may be prescribed medicine that affects enzymes in the pancreas that cause glucose to be broken down to allow more glucose into the cells.

Educating patients on the importance of exercise and diet is very important, as they ‌have a major impact on treatments and prevention.

What are the complications of diabetes?

If diabetes isn't detected early or managed, it can cause a variety of health problems, including:

● Cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and heart attack.

● Kidney damage because of inability to cleanse harmful substances from the blood. As glucose builds up in the body, it can cause cell damage that leads to kidney failure.

● Problem with the eyes, leading to cataract formation and retinopathy.

● Neuropathy or nerve damage.

● Lipodystrophies, including obesity and fatty liver disease. Studies have found that diabetes can increase the risk of being obese by up to 400 per cent, because of changes in appetite, body fat storage and sensitivity to insulin.

How can you reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes?

Eat a balanced diet. This includes a healthy fat intake of around 25 per cent of total energy intake.

Exercise regularly and build up your muscle mass.

Losing weight if you are overweight and trying to keep that weight off is the best way to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help you achieve this goal.

Avoid alcohol, smoking, illicit drugs and excess caffeine intake, which can all increase insulin resistance in the body.

Be aware of the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol can cause dehydration, which can increase your blood sugar level.

Check your blood sugar level regularly to get a good understanding of how much insulin your body needs.

Take regular exercise, especially if you are overweight. This can help with preventing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stroke.

Learn to recognise signs and symptoms early and seek medical attention as needed. As diabetes is treatable, the earlier you get it diagnosed and treated, the better chance you have of keeping it under control. Getting in touch with a GP or other member of the healthcare team early will also ensure you're managed by people who have expertise in dealing with this issue.

This Diabetes Week 2022, we encourage everyone to recognise the symptoms and warning signs of diabetes, as well as to learn what they can do to prevent it. This will help reduce the risk of having diabetes and save you a lot of future harm caused by this debilitating disease.

If you want to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and keep your blood glucose level within a healthy range, the best thing you can do is to be aware of the risks associated with it and make the necessary lifestyle changes to help prevent it.

For more information on diabetes, you can also visit the Diabetes UK website at