If you, or someone close to you, have been given a diabetes diagnosis, you are likely to have lots of questions about what causes diabetes, the symptoms of diabetes and diabetes treatments.
Everything you need to know about living well with diabetes
What is diabetes?
What causes diabetes?
The food we eat often contains glucose. High levels of glucose in the bloodstream can be dangerous, so the pancreas produces insulin which breaks glucose down to create energy. However, in the body of a person with diabetes, glucose cannot be broken down because there's too little insulin or it isn’t doing its job properly.
Main Types of Diabetes
You may have already heard of this condition but did you realise there are two main types of diabetes and a third type which sometimes presents in pregnant women?
The two main types of diabetes are called Type 1 and Type 2:
• Type 1: The cells that produce insulin are destroyed by the immune system, so insulin is not produced, which causes glucose to build up. The body may start to break down fat or protein stores. This type of diabetes commonly occurs in childhood and is a life-long condition, but there are diabetes treatments available. Experts are still unsure as to why Type 1 diabetes occurs in some people, but research is continuing
• Type 2: More common than type 1, type 2 diabetes occurs when not enough insulin is produced by the pancreas, or the body becomes insulin resistant. There are a number of possible causes for this type of diabetes, such as genetics, but most people with type 2 can treat their condition by changing their diet and lifestyle
There is a third type of diabetes called gestational diabetes, which some pregnant women may experience. This is not a long term condition and usually goes away shortly after birth.
Symptoms of diabetes
Concerned you may have diabetes? There are several key symptoms of this condition.
Diabetes symptoms may include:
• Feeling really thirsty
• Peeing more often than usual, especially at night time
• Losing weight and muscle
• Feeling tired or fatigued
• Blurry vision
• Slow healing of cuts
• Itchy genitals
It may be harder to spot diabetes symptoms in children who may not be able to explain how they are feeling or may not realise some of the symptoms they have. Watch the Diabetes UK video on what to look for.
If you, or your child, are experiencing symptoms such as those above, you should see your GP immediately. You may not have diabetes, but it is important to find out.
If diabetes is left untreated for any length of time, you may be at risk of going through diabetic ketoacidosis or developing other serious health problems.
The earlier you receive a diagnosis of diabetes, the sooner you can begin diabetes treatments.
If you have already been given a diabetes diagnosis, it is important to recognise when your blood glucose levels are too low or too high, so you can take appropriate action before experiencing hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia:
Hypoglycaemia: Low blood sugar levels are caused by too much insulin in the body and symptoms include sweating, dizziness and tiredness/fatigue. You may be able to resolve this by having sugary (non-fatty) food or drink which are high in fast acting carbohydrates, e.g. fruit juice, sweets
Hyperglycaemia: High blood sugar levels are caused by missing medication, eating too many carbohydrates or stress, which increases urinating, thirst and hunger
Living with Diabetes
Here we discuss how diabetes symptoms can be managed with diabetes treatments, and how products, diet, exercise and talking to others with the condition can help you live well with diabetes.
If you, or someone close to you, are living with diabetes it can be difficult to come to terms with, especially after your initial diagnosis when you are trying to understand the condition and what it means for you. However, many people live long and healthy lives with diabetes and whilst it is a long term condition that requires management and monitoring, most people can still do the things they enjoy.
Treatment for diabetes helps to keep blood glucose within a normal range and enables you to manage diabetes symptoms to prevent further health problems.
People with type 1 diabetes are usually prescribed insulin injections which are given by a special insulin pen. Some people may need to use a syringe to administer their insulin. Injecting yourself or your child is often a scary prospect, but you should receive lots of support from your diabetes nurse or doctor so that eventually it becomes a normal part of everyday life.
If you are given a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, you will be advised to make changes to your diet and lifestyle which will form the basis of your diabetes treatment and self-care. You will more than likely be advised to eat healthily and take regular exercise. If you are a smoker, you should stop smoking, and if you are overweight, you will be advised to lose weight. Many people with type 2 diabetes are able to control and manage their condition by taking good care of themselves.
Some people may go on to require medication to control their blood glucose levels.You can find out more on the NHS website. If you need help to quit smoking, see the NHS Smokefree website.
At NRS Healthcare we are experts in daily living aids, which help people with long and short term health conditions or disabilities to carry out daily tasks with greater ease and independence. If you are finding any daily living tasks more difficult due to your diabetes or other health conditions, please contact our Occupational Therapists who can offer expert product advice on what might be able to help you at home.
Our Low Blood Sugar Alarm is a particularly useful product for people who may be at risk of experiencing hypoglycaemia at night. It monitors perspiration levels and body temperature, alerting the user if these increase, which may signify they are experiencing a “hypo” and need to take action.
At NRS Healthcare, we offer a huge range of equipment that can help those who are older, or have a health condition, live more independently. Below you’ll find some of our most popular products which can help relieve some of the symptoms of diabetes and enable those living with the condition to do more things for themselves – whether at home or when out and about.
Diabetes and employment
Most people with diabetes will be able to continue their jobs as normal but may require some support from their employer. It is therefore recommended to tell your employer about your diagnosis as it is important for your own health and safety.
Diabetes UK offer advice on diabetes and employment.
Eating a healthy diet is really important for people who have a diagnosis of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. It is important to eat a variety of foods and not cut anything out. A diet for diabetes management should include pasta and other starch carbohydrates as well as lots of fruit and vegetables. Many people with type 1 diabetes try ‘carb counting’ which helps manage blood sugar levels by matching insulin doses to the level of carbohydrates they eat.
Diabetes UK offers a host of recipe ideas and eating plans for people looking for guidance on eating a healthy diabetes diet.
Exercise for diabetes
Regular exercise can help reduce the level of glucose in the blood, so it’s really important to stay as active as possible if you have diabetes. You should try to do 30 minutes of exercise per day. If you are new to exercise, speak to your GP before undertaking a new regime.
Support for Diabetes
Remember - you are not alone!
Unsure what something means? Checkout our Glossary section below.
- – before eating a meal or snack, type 1 diabetics must find out how many carbohydrates are in their food and balance it with the correct amount of insulin
– a dangerous condition where a lack of insulin causes harmful substances called ‘ketones’ to build up in the body. Fatal if left untreated
– when pregnancy causes the mother’s blood glucose levels to rise. Usually disappears after giving birth
- sugar from carbohydrates in food enter the bloodstream and travel around the body delivering energy to vital organs
Hyperglycemia (or ‘hyper’)
– when you have too much glucose in your blood, causing your body to experience symptoms such as increased thirst, blurry vision and more frequent urination
Hypoglycemia (or a ‘hypo’)
– when levels of glucose in your blood are too low (less than 4 mmol/l), causing your body to feel tired or fatigued and experience ‘warning signs’ such as hand tremors or a cold sweat
– a hormone which should be naturally produced by the pancreas in order to regulate the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood
– when cells in the body fail to respond normally to insulin and are unable to use it as effectively which leads to high levels of glucose in the blood
– an organ in the body which is responsible for the production of insulin