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Your GP can check your urine to see if excess glucose is overflowing through your kidneys and into your urine or a simple finger prick blood test to check your blood glucose. But for a formal diagnosis, a fasting blood sample must be sent to the laboratory for analysis. If this test is not conclusive, you can have other tests as a hospital outpatient.
There is no cure for diabetes. The aim is to keep your blood glucose, blood cholesterol and blood pressure as close to normal as possible. High blood glucose over a long period of time increases your risk of long-term complications of diabetes that may affect your blood vessels, heart, eyes, kidneys and feet in particular.
If you smoke, giving up is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health in general and reduce your risk of diabetic complications. The difficulties of giving up are well known, so ask your GP or practice nurse how the NHS can help you. You may be able to join a group or have one-to-one sessions or have nicotine products or other medication on prescription. You may want to look on the NHS Smokefree website or call their helpline.
The emphasis today is on helping you understand your condition better so that if you wish, you can work confidently in partnership with health professionals to make decisions about and manage your day-to-day care. Regular reviews of your care are a key part of successful management.
As a newly-diagnosed diabetic, you should be offered the opportunity to learn more about diabetes and its treatment. This is usually by being invited to several group sessions run by health professionals such as a specialist nurse, a dietitian or chiropodist. These sessions provide an opportunity for you to ask questions in the group or meet individually with one of the health professionals if you wish.
This approach to managing diabetes is described in guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The guidance explains the care and treatment people with type 2 diabetes should expect from the NHS. A patient version is available on request or can be downloaded from their website. You can find out how to contact their orderline in the Further information section.
Diabetes UK and the NHS Choices website also have information to help you work with your GP practice to manage your care.
When first diagnosed, your GP should discuss your treatment options and their risks and benefits so that you can agree and draw up a care plan.
To begin with, you may be able to control your blood glucose by making lifestyle changes – losing any excess weight, following healthy eating advice and taking regular exercise. A one-to-one meeting with a dietitian can help you look at your current diet to see what changes you could make.
Healthy eating for diabetics is in line with healthy eating for the general population:
Diabetes UK has advice and recipe suggestions to help you.
If this does not keep your blood glucose under control, there’'s a range of medications in tablet form that are effective. You may, if tablets alone are no longer adequate, need to start insulin injections as well as, or instead of, tablets. You can get more information about the various medications and insulin from Diabetes UK or the NHS Choices website.
Healthy eating and taking regular exercise also help to control your blood pressure and blood cholesterol but you may need to take medication as well.
To ensure your diabetes is well controlled and that any signs of diabetic complications are picked up quickly, your GP practice will arrange to see you at least annually and if necessary, revise your care plan.
You review should include checks:
You should be invited for an annual specialist eye examination to check for any changes to the retina at the back of your eyes. As a diabetic, you are at risk of an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy that if undetected can lead to sight loss.
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