Is your family at risk of diabetes? That’s the question World Diabetes Day hopes to ask more than one million people by the end of November, to raise awareness of this potentially deadly condition. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, amputation, heart failure and kidney disease – and, with the number of people diagnosed in the UK doubling in the last 20 years, it could be closer to home than you realise.
What is diabetes?
World Diabetes Day is held globally every year on November 14 to help people spot the signs and understand how to manage the condition. This year, the theme is the family, with a two-minute test to take online to find out if you’re risk. Diabetes is a serious condition in which blood sugar levels become too high. We all need the hormone insulin to enable the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies but, when this doesn’t happen, diabetes occurs.
With Type 1 diabetes, no insulin is produced, causing blood sugar levels to build up. Type 1 diabetes isn’t connected with diet or lifestyle and comes on very suddenly, in a matter of weeks or even days.
Type 2 diabetes – which affects about nine out of 10 people with diabetes – occurs when insulin is produced but doesn’t work effectively. Type 2 tends to be more closely linked with lifestyle, typically affecting people over 40 (although younger people and children are increasingly being diagnosed), overweight people and those with a close relative with the condition.
How do I know if I have diabetes?
According to Diabetes UK, six out of 10 people with Type 2 diabetes don’t experience any symptoms, meaning they live with the condition sometimes for years before a diagnosis. Fortunately, your local optician is well trained to detect early signs of diabetes, such as damage to the retina. In fact, a sight test can be one of the first indicators of a number of conditions, including diabetes and glaucoma, which is why it’s important to have regular eye tests.
Other symptoms of diabetes include:
- Blurred vision and headaches
- Excessive thirst or hunger
- Weight gain or loss
- Needing to go to the loo more frequently
- Sickness or nausea
If you experience any of these, make an appointment to see your GP or optician straight away.
What are the complications of diabetes?
In the long term, diabetes can damage your eyes, heart, feet and kidneys. Diabetic retinopathy, where fragile and abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina and is common in people who live with diabetes for 10 years or more, can lead to permanent loss of vision. People with diabetes are entitled to have an annual eye test, free of charge, with the NHS.
Living well with diabetes
In the UK, there are thought to be four million people living with diabetes, with this figure set to rise to five million by 2025. If you have diabetes, it’s wise to eat healthily, lead an active lifestyle and take regular blood tests to monitor your blood glucose levels. If you haven’t exercised for a while, follow Cardiff physio Nathan Thomas’ advice on choosing the right sport for you, while our top tips for newbie runners will also help you put your best foot forward!
Did you know that a Plutus Health plan covers hospital visits, as well as optical care? To find out more about the full range of benefits, read our guide ‘What is a health cash plan?’ or give our team a call on 01633 266152.