Everything you need to know about diabetes, including reducing risks and how to manage symptoms
Diabetes affects one in three Irish families. Currently it is estimated that 225,000 people are living with diabetes in Ireland and this number is predicted to increase. It is possible to have Type 2 diabetes and not know it, so it is important to have an awareness of diabetes, the risks that can increase the chances of it developing and know if there is anything that you can do to reduce your future risk.
Diabetes (mellitus) is a life-long condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high. This happens when the body cannot use glucose properly due to a lack of insulin or not enough working insulin.
The main types of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body completely stops producing insulin. It is the most common type of diabetes seen in young people and is an auto-immune condition where the body’s immune system attacks the insulin producing cells in the body. It is not preventable at present. Type 1 diabetes is managed by replacing the body’s insulin using insulin injections or by using an insulin pump, along with a healthy lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetes
This is the more common form of diabetes. It accounts for about 85% of all diabetes. In type 2 diabetes the body produces some insulin but not enough, or the produced insulin does not work effectively, a condition known as insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is managed by having a healthy balanced diet, taking regular physical activity, weight management if appropriate and with prescription medication which may also include insulin injections.
Pre-diabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that almost 20% of people over the age of 45 have pre-diabetes, a largely preventable condition. Type 2 diabetes prevention studies show that healthy eating, taking regular physical activity and having a weight appropriate for your height will help to delay or possibly prevent the onset of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes in about 60% of cases.
The 4 Ts
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include tiredness, thirst, passing urine more than normal, and unexplained weight loss. Otherwise known as the 4 T’s Tired, Thirst, Thinner, Toilet!
Other signs and symptoms include frequent infections, slow healing of sores or cuts, blurred vision, numbness, pain or tingling in hands or feet (often worse at night).
If you or a family member are experiencing these symptoms go to your GP as a simple finger prick test can rule out diabetes.
Who should get checked and how?
There are risk factors that can increase the chance of type 2 diabetes developing. These include age (over age 45) or having a family history of diabetes. Being overweight for ones height, being sedentary or having had gestational diabetes in the past. Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol are also conditions associated with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is diagnosed by getting a routine blood test done with your GP to check the levels of glucose in the blood. If you have some of the risk factors listed above, you should attend your GP for a blood test.
Reduce your risk
If you feel you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, perhaps you are overweight, sedentary, have other family members with Diabetes. Take Action Today.
You should attend your GP for routine blood tests which will determine if you have diabetes. You can also delay or prevent type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Changes such as having a healthy balanced diet, taking regular physical activity and maintaining a weight that is appropriate for your height.
To check your own personal risk of diabetes you can complete a short online risk assessment on the Diabetes Ireland website
Diabetes is a manageable condition. However, if it is poorly managed or goes undiagnosed the ongoing high blood glucose levels can lead to complications. These complications can affect the eyes, heart, kidneys and feet. So, it is essential that you reduce your risk of this condition by developing by leading a healthy lifestyle. And attending your GP for routine blood tests.
Since 1967 Diabetes Ireland has been serving the diabetes community, as the national charity dedicated to supporting people with diabetes, their families and carers. Each year through our patient education and information services we provide support to thousands of Irish people living with diabetes.
Author Clair Naughton is a Diabetes Nurse Specialist and Regional Development Officer for the North West for Diabetes Ireland.