What is diabetes?

What is diabetes? What are the symptoms and different types?

Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar (called blood glucose) is too high. This is because the body cannot use the glucose due to a lack of insulin or because the body is not using the insulin as it would normally do (insulin resistance).

We get glucose in our blood from the breakdown of any food that contains carbohydrate. Carbohydrate foods include bread, rice, pasta, cereal, potato, beans, lentils, fruit, milk, sugar, biscuits and cakes.

Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds
  • Blurred vision

It is important to know that many people with Type 2 diabetes may not get any symptoms in the early stages and often it is picked up by a routine medical checkup at the GP. For more information and advice about diabetes symptoms visit Diabetes UK.

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes.

 
 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes is caused when the body attacks and destroys the cells that make insulin.

It can happen at any age but is more common in younger people.

Treatment

It is not reversible and people with Type 1 need to inject insulin several times a day throughout life.

Type 2 Diabetes

There are 3.2 million people in the UK with diabetes.

Weight loss is known to help prevent Type 2 diabetes in those who are at risk.

Main risk factors

  • Obesity
  • Family history of diabetes

Treatment

Treatment is usually with diet and exercise when first diagnosed but many people also need tablets and insulin as time goes by.

Gestational Diabetes

This type of diabetes can occur during pregnancy. It is usually diagnosed between 20-28 weeks.

After the baby is born it normally goes away, but women with a history of gestational diabetes are known to be at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes in later life.

Your GP will normally be asked to check you for diabetes once a year. If you have any further pregnancies you should be tested for gestational diabetes at 20 and 28 weeks.

Main risk factors

  • Parental obesity
  • Family history of diabetes (parent, brother or sister)
  • An unexplained stillbirth, neonatal death
  • A very large infant in a previous pregnancy (4.5kg / 10 pounds or over)
  • Having had gestational diabetes before
  • South Asian, Black Caribbean or Middle Eastern family origin