This week from the 12th of June is UK Diabetes week. When you hear the word ‘diabetes’, what goes through your mind? Do you think it is a disease that will not affect you? Do you wonder what it is or perhaps think of a relative who has it? Diabetes, which was once a disease that was not a norm in UK culture, is now a widespread and rampant epidemic. According to Diabetes UK, ‘Around 700 people a day are diagnosed with diabetes. That’s the equivalent of one person every two minutes’. This is an astonishing statistic that shows just how widespread this disease really is, especially since in many cases it is preventable.
What is Diabetes?
While the reasons that people get diabetes vary from individual to individual, the disease is one to take seriously, especially as we age. Before getting into more detail about how to avoid or treat it, it is important to understand what it is and how it works.
Diabetes UK does a nice job of defining this disease and its types. They state the following.
‘The risk factors are different for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have been destroyed. Nobody knows for sure why these insulin-producing cells have been damaged, but the most likely cause is the body having an abnormal reaction to the cells. This may be triggered by a virus or other infection. Type 2 diabetes usually appears in middle-aged or older people, although more frequently it is being diagnosed in younger overweight people, and it is known to affect people from BAME (Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnicity) backgrounds at a younger age. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is not making enough insulin, or the insulin it is making is not being used properly. The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes can be reduced by changes in lifestyle.’
Diabetes can be genetic, caused by a medical condition or caused by an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle. WebMD clarifies how diabetes works: ‘Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes can occur when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin. As yet, there is no cure. People with diabetes need to manage their disease to stay healthy’. Diabetes has many symptoms; and once you have it, it can only be treated by lifestyle changes or medicine. The end result of living with diabetes should not be understated as it can lead to limb loss and death. More about that later.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
Now that you are more aware of what diabetes is and its prevalence, how do you know if you have it? There are many ways to diagnose diabetes. The first is to know if it runs in your family. Family history is a good indicator of your health risk. According to WebMD, ‘If you have relatives with diabetes, chances are strong you’ll get it, too’. If this is the case, speak with your doctor. Your doctor can give you a blood test to see if you have diabetes. To learn more about those tests in-depth, visit the WebMD website. In general, the blood test looks at your blood sugar levels as a snapshot or over a period of time. Your doctor will let you know where you fall on the diabetes spectrum, which includes pre-diabetes and full-blown diabetes.
There are other markers of diabetes that may lead you to your doctor. While these symptoms can be confused with other ailments, there are three main physiological markers of the disease: constant hunger, excessive thirst and constant urination. Your doctor will determine if these are caused by diabetes or another concern. Diabetes also causes many dangerous and life-threatening conditions as shown in the image below.
Treatment and Beyond
Taking control of your life to prevent or manage diabetes is an important and multi-faceted pursuit. Along with regular doctor visits and nutrition counselling, diabetes can often be managed or prevented. When dealing with this disease, you will most likely want a team of healthcare professionals. As you have seen, diabetes can affect many parts of your body, which is why a team of specialists is crucial. The members of your healthcare team can include the following.
- Foot doctor
- Eye doctor
- Diabetes specialist (called an endocrinologist)
- Primary care doctor
Treatment goes beyond visiting doctors, potential medication and other devices, however. The most powerful person on your team is you. With proper diet and exercise, you can help control your blood sugar levels, which as we have seen are directly correlated to the disease. While your team of specialists can help provide specific information that will be aimed towards your specific situation, in general, you can learn more about self-care for diabetes here and here.
How We Help
At Telecare24, we care about you and your elderly relatives, which is why we aim to educate you about important information that is related directly to quality of life. We have many tools and technologies that can help you and your loved one live a safe and productive life with dignity. To learn more, contact why not view my video below.
Dr Hilary Jones