What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious lifelong condition that affects around 3.5 million people in the UK. There are 2 types of diabetes- known as Type 1 and Type 2, and 90% of those with diabetes have Type 2.

Experts estimate that there could be as many as half a million people living with undiagnosed diabetes. So what are the symptoms? What are the differences between the two types? Is there effective treatments or a way to cure it?

What is Type 1 diabetes?

This rarer form of the condition is much more common in childhood, although it can develop at any age. It is unknown what causes it, but it isn’t down to lifestyle.

It is caused by the body attacking and destroying the cells that produce insulin.

What is Type 2 diabetes?

The more common form of diabetes usually starts gradually later in life. Risk of developing this form is affected by family history, age, and ethnic background, and those who are overweight are more likely to develop it.

This type of diabetes is caused by the body not producing insulin properly.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which helps regulate your blood sugar level by moving the glucose out of the blood and into the cells, so it can be used for energy. Without enough insulin, the blood sugar levels rise. If they stay elevated this can lead to serious health complications.

What is pre-diabetes?

This is when a person’s blood sugar level is elevated, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Having high blood sugar increases your risk of developing diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating more often than normal, particularly at night
  • Feeling very tired
  • Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
  • Itching around the genitals, or frequent episodes of thrush
  • Cuts or wounds being slow to heal
  • Blurred vision

Type 1 diabetes can develop very quickly, whereas Type 2 can take years to be fully apparent.

What is the treatment?

There is currently no known cure for either type of diabetes. The condition is treated individually, and will be different for each person.

Type 1 diabetes is treated by administering insulin, and Type 2 can sometimes initially be controlled with diet and exercise.