Almost 3.7 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, and nearly a million more are unknowingly living with the disease, according to charity Diabetes UK.
Around 90 per cent of all adults with the condition suffer from type 2 diabetes, rather than type 1. Many people miss the signs of type 2 diabetes, as the symptoms do not necessarily make them feel unwell.
A common but misunderstood illness, here’s the low-down on diabetes and some of the most common signs you may have been overlooking.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes the sufferer’s blood sugar level to become too high.
Type 1 diabetes causes the body’s immune system to attack and destroy the cells that produce insulin, while in type 2 diabetes the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin as they should.
Symptoms of diabetes
The NHS advise that symptoms of diabetes can include:
- urinating more than usual, particularly at night
- feeling thirsty all the time
- feeling very tired
- losing weight without trying to
- itching around your genitals, or repeatedly getting thrush
- cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- blurred vision
While the indicators of both types of the disease are similar, the symptoms of type 1 diabetes can come on quickly over weeks or even days, particularly in children.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be exhibiting signs of diabetes, you should make an appointment with a doctor who will run further tests.
Who is at risk of developing diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes can affect anyone, but type 2 diabetes is often linked to being overweight.
You are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are over the age of 40 (or 25 for south Asian people), have a close relative with diabetes, or are of south Asian, Chinese, African Caribbean or black African origin – even if you were born in the UK.
How does diabetes affect everyday life?
Those diagnosed with diabetes need to carry out regular blood tests to ensure their blood glucose levels stay balanced.
Sufferers of type 1 diabetes will require regular insulin injections for the rest of their lives, while someone with type 2 may eventually need to take medication, usually in the form of tablets.