Diabetes FAQs

Diabetes is on the increase and, if undiagnosed, can be very dangerous.
What is diabetes?

Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body's cells turn the glucose in the blood into energy.

So there are two types?

There are two main types. Type 1 diabetes is unpreventable. It occurs when the body can't produce any insulin. People with type 1 will always need to take insulin to manage their condition. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't make enough some insulin or cannot use that which it does make. This is often linked with being overweight and is preventable in some cases.

Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children, type 2 in adults over 40. (In South Asian and African-Caribbean people, type 2 often appears after the age of 25). However, both types can be diagnosed in all types of people at all ages. There are children of seven with type 2 and men in their 40s diagnosed with type 1.

Who does it affect?

There are currently over 2.5 million people with diabetes in the UK (about 90% of them have type 2). But there are at least half a million people with diabetes who don't know they have the condition. Men aged 35-54 are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as women of the same age. Don't think diabetes is not serious. Make sure you know the symptoms. If you have them, ask your doctor to test for diabetes.

What are the symptoms?
  • feeling very thirsty
  • peeing more often, especially at night
  • feeling very tired
  • weight loss and loss of muscle
  • itching (around the penis or vagina) or frequent episodes of thrush
  • cuts or wounds heal more slowly
  • blurred vision (caused by the lens of the eye becoming dry)
Type 1 diabetes only affects children right?

No. Latent auto-immune diabetes is a from of type 1 diabetes that comes on slowly.

Natasha Marsland, Care Advisor at leading health charity Diabetes UK, says: 'Typically, the signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are very obvious and will present over a few weeks. It is usually found in under-40s and the peak age of diagnosis is 10-14 years old.

However, some people develop the much rarer late onset Type 1 diabetes, which is clinically known as LADA - a slowly progressing form of Type 1 diabetes which will eventually need to be treated with insulin. Some people will be given insulin as soon as they are diagnosed. LADA can be diagnosed by having a blood test for antibodies (these antibodies attack the insulin producing cells).'

What do I do if I think I have diabetes?

Getting diagnosed sooner rather than later is important as early diagnosis, treatment and good control of diabetes is vital to reduce the chances of developing serious complications. But just as many of us don't fully understand all the possible complications of diabetes nor do some doctors. So if you think you have symptoms get down to your GP.

What happens if I don’t treat my diabetes?

Left unchecked, diabetes can kill.

Neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that transmit impulses to and from the brain and spinal cord, to the muscles, skin, blood vessels and other organs. Despite research, we're still not sure why this happens but it is thought that hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels) harms the blood vessels and may cause chemical changes in the nerves which impair their ability to transmit signals.

As well as neuropathy, other serious complications from diabetes include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation (which can be necessary in extreme cases of some types of neuropathy).

Who can help?
Watch our diabetes slideshow




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Last published 07/04/14
Date of last review 07/04/14
Date of next review 07/04/17