The most common symptoms of diabetes include:
– Feeling thirsty;
– Frequent urination;
– Feeling very tired;
– Weight/muscle loss;
– Blurred vision.
Some people also experience frequent thrush infections, genital itching or wounds that heal extremely slowly.
The early signs of diabetes such as tiredness and thirst are often overlooked, and as such, someone may have diabetes for years before they are accurately diagnosed.
Type 1 diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes, the body is unable to produce insulin, so glucose levels go unregulated. It is often referred to as ‘insulin-dependent diabetes’ or ‘early-onset diabetes’. In the UK, 10% of all people with diabetes have Type 1.
Type 2 diabetes
In Type 2 diabetes, the body is insulin-resistant, meaning it does not respond to insulin, or the body does not produce enough insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes often referred to as ‘late-onset diabetes’. In the UK, 90% of all people with diabetes have Type 2.
People with Type 1 diabetes will need to administer insulin injections for the rest of their lives. Dietary adjustments are important for managing blood sugar levels, for example eating fewer carbohydrates, more fibre and monitoring alcohol intake. Regular exercise is also vital to stay in control, as it lowers blood pressure and improves heart health. For those who are overweight, losing weight can have a really positive impact on managing diabetes. Other lifestyle adjustments that can help include managing stress and quitting smoking. The good news is that maintaining a good quality of life activates a positive feedback loop where diabetes is managed effectively. There are also a number of healthcare professionals that can help build and maintain your diabetes coping skills such as how to manage symptoms of high or low blood sugar.
How it affects your day to day life
For most people, the biggest impact on their daily life is having to administer regular injections (Type 1 diabetes). A substantial amount of planning is required such as meal planning and and having regular blood tests to monitor blood glucose levels, regular eye tests.
Common complications of diabetes include depression, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, nerve damage, diabetic retinopathy (an eye condition that can lead to site loss) and foot ulcers.
Supporting a family member or friend with diabetes
Support from friends and family is vital for improving a diabetic’s quality of life and preventing their disease from worsening. You can support someone with diabetes by adopting a healthier lifestyle in support such as encouraging healthier family meals and planning enjoyable exercise sessions to motivate them. As there is an element of genetic predisposition to diabetes, family members may be more likely to take preventative measures once they realise they may be at risk. It’s also important to provide emotional support while someone adapts to being diagnosed with a chronic illness they will need to manage for the rest of their life.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by maintaining a healthy body weight, having a healthy diet and exercising regularly (at least 3 times a week). If people have blood sugar levels above the normal range that are not high enough to be diabetes, they may be diagnosed with pre-diabetes; at this stage the disease can still be reversed with lifestyle changes.
Diabetes is a chronic but manageable condition, and in the case of type 2 diabetes, a preventable one.