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Diabetes is a condition that cannot be cured - but if picked up early and with the right management has a minimal effect on your daily life.  

There is more than one type of diabetes. Here we look at type 2 diabetes - the most common one to affect adults – and look at symptoms, treatment and how you can work in partnership with health professionals to manage your care on a day-to-day basis.

Some groups of the population are at much higher risk of getting diabetes than others and of having it at a much younger age, so it’s important to know if you are in a high risk group.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is caused when the level of glucose in your blood is too high because of problems with insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas.  Insulin helps glucose move from your blood into body cells where it is used as energy.

Early diagnosis is important because long term health problems can arise if high blood glucose levels go undetected.

Types of diabetes.

Type 1 is much less common and usually appears before the age of 40, most often in childhood or early adulthood.  With this type, the pancreas is unable to make any insulin.

Type 2 arises when the pancreas can still make insulin but in insufficient quantities or when body cells don’t respond to it in the normal way. It usually appears in adults over 40, although in South Asian or African–Caribbean people it often appears as early as 25.

Could you be at risk?

Some things that increase your risk of diabetes you can’t change. These are known as ‘non-modifiable’ risk factors and include:

  • ethnicity – African-Caribbean or South Asian people from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, living in the UK, are at least fives times more likely to have diabetes than the white population
  • having type 2 diabetes in your family – the closer the relative, say a parent, brother or sister, the greater the risk
  • age – your risk increases with age
  • having diabetes while you are pregnant

But others, known as ‘modifiable risk factors’ you can do something about and so lower your risk. These include:

  • being overweight – around 80% people diagnosed with diabetes are overweight
  • having an ‘apple-shaped’ physique - this means having excess weight around your waist.

As a guide:

  • for women, the risk increases if your waist is 31.5 inches (80cm) or more 
  • for men the risk increases if your waist is 37 inches (94cm)
  • for men of South Asian or African-Caribbean origin it increases if your waist is 35 inches (90cm).
  • having heart or circulatory problems – you increase your risk if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or have had a heart attack or stroke.

Can you reduce your risk?

If any of these risk factors apply to you – particularly your ethnicity or family history of diabetes - you should make an appointment with your GP to discuss your overall risk and if necessary have a diabetes test.

Once you know the outcome, you and your GP can discuss and agree an action plan.

Recognising symptoms

Symptoms for type 2 diabetes are not very specific and can seem vague and unimportant. They include:

  • increased thirst;
  • frequent trips to the toilet, particularly at night;
  • excessive tiredness
  • weight loss
  • blurred vision
  • slow healing of cuts
  • genital itching or frequent episodes of thrush

You may have no warning symptoms at all. So if you are at risk or you have any of the above symptoms, ask your GP for a diabetes check.


Advice line:
08000 223 444

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