Diabetes is a hidden condition but should not be placed at the back of the queue. 1 in 14 of us live with diabetes – and even more care for a loved one who does. And every one of us matters. Diabetes Week (13–19 June) is about celebrating each and every one of you.
According to Diabetes UK, about 90% of the people living with diabetes have type 2. And along with your family history, ethnicity and age, the risks of developing the condition are affected by lifestyle choices.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
The combination of genetic susceptibility and lifestyle can lead to insulin resistance. If you’ve got type 2 diabetes, the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly – or it simply can’t make enough.
Why do we need insulin?
Insulin is essential for our body to function properly. It allows blood glucose to enter our cells and fuel the system.
What are the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes?
One of the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes is feeling very tired. Other symptoms include:
- Needing to urinate a lot
- Feeling very thirsty
- Increased hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Areas of darkened skin (usually in the armpits and neck)
- Getting infections, e.g. thrush
- Wounds, e.g. cuts and grazes taking longer to heal
However, many people don’t actually get – or notice – any symptoms. This means that some people can actually live for up to 10 years without being diagnosed. But this does mean that over time, there can be complications for the body.
What are the complications of type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes can cause a range of problems for our bodies – from chronic to acute.
- Eye problems (retinopathy)
- Foot problems
- Heart attack and stroke
- Kidney problems (nephropathy)
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Gum disease and other mouth problems
- Related conditions, like cancer
- Sexual problems in women
- Sexual problems in men
- Hypos – blood sugars are too low
- Hypers – blood sugars are too high
- Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS) – a life-threatening emergency brought on by severe dehydration and very high blood sugars
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – a life-threatening emergency where the lack of insulin and high blood sugars leads to a build-up of ketones
But these issues aren’t inevitable. Keeping blood sugar, blood pressure and blood fats under control can help to reduce the risks.
How can you manage the risks of type 2 diabetes?
Whether you have prediabetes or have already received a diagnosis, lifestyle changes can slow, or in some cases, stop the progression of diabetes. Here’s what you can do:
- Manage your weight – excess body fat can increase the body’s resistance to insulin
- Quit smoking – it makes blood circulation much harder and can double the chances of complications. For help stopping smoking, contact Smokefree or call the NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0300 123 104
- Exercise regularly – moderate physical exercise will help you manage your weight, reduce blood glucose levels and can improve blood pressure and cholesterol
- Watch your alcohol intake – drinking can lead to weight gain and can increase your blood pressure and triglyceride levels; high triglycerides levels indicate that your system for turning food into energy isn’t working properly
Crucially, as you get older, it’s important to see your doctor for regular check-ups. They can test your blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
But if you are diagnosed with diabetes, our personal alarm service can provide valuable reassurance and support. Our team are available 24/7 in case of an emergency. Read our case study about how James, a 19 year old diabetic, managed his transition to independent living through the help of telecare.
To find out more, give us a call: 0300 333 6511 or email [email protected]