Diabetes is a condition where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, which we need to break down the glucose we get from digesting carbohydrates.  In diabetics, glucose accumulates and can’t be used as fuel to give us energy.

Around 3 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes – and another 850,000 may have the condition without realising it.

There are two types of diabetes.  Around 15% of diabetics, including most of those who develop it in childhood, have Type 1, where the body doesn’t make any insulin at all.  The increased levels of glucose in the blood causes serious damage to all organ systems in the body if left untreated.  Treatment of Type I diabetes is normally by injecting a form of insulin.

Symptoms: the body tries to get rid of the glucose through the kidneys, so one symptom of undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes is frequent urination and thirst.  Bacteria thrive in the gluc0se-rich urine, giving rise to thrush or genital itching, and because the blood contains a high level of glucose, bacteria build up in wounds which can be slow to heal. Glucose can also build up in the lens in the eye, causing blurred vision.    Other symptoms include feeling tired and lethargic, because of the lack of energy from the undigested glucose, and weight loss as the body uses fat reserves as an alternative source of energy.  These symptoms can occur quite quickly, even over a period of a few weeks.

Type II diabetes is most common in the white population over the age of 40, and in the black and South Asian population over the age of 25.  In Type II diabetes, the body can produce insulin, but the insulin is either not effective or the body doesn’t produce enough insulin.  Sometimes this is because the body is overweight (an excess of fat can interfere with the production of insulin or the absorption of glucose).  The body continues to produce more insulin, and glucose levels rise.  Symptoms are similar to those of Type I diabetes but are slow to develop.  Some people have no obvious symptoms and go undiagnosed for many years.   Type II diabetes can usually be treated initially by making changes to diet, increasing exercise and and losing weight.  As the disease progresses most people will need some medication to lower their blood glucose.

Diabetes can give rise to other problems with your eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves, so it is important to get the right treatment as soon as possible.   Our GPs will assess you and refer you, if necessary, to the diabetic specialist clinic at the hospital.   Our nurses will help to monitor you condition with regular review appointments.  We also have a specialist diabetic nurse who sees patients monthly at Portesham Surgery to advise on management of their diabetes.

The Diabetes UK website has information on symptoms, causes, treatment, living with diabetes, food and recipes and support, or you can ring Careline on 0845 120 2960.

NHS Direct has a useful symptom checker for people with diabetes.

Diabetes UK has a local group – the  West Dorset Support Group – which holds regular meetings and events with guest speakers such as GPs, podiatrists, dieticians and diabetes consultants.  Email timfreeborn1@gmail.com or ring 01305 835870 for details.

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