What is diabetes ?

Diabetes is a condition where your body doesn't produce any or enough insulin, or the insulin it does produce cannot work properly.

Diabetes is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. It is a serious condition that if not treated and managed properly can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and nerve damage that could lead to amputations.Healthy Living

Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes, chapattis, yam and plantain, from sugar and other sweet food and from the liver, which makes glucose.

The glucose (energy) is then absorbed into the bloodstream. The increase in blood glucose levels causes the pancreas to produce a vital hormone called insulin. Insulin sends messages to the cells to open the cell doors so that glucose can enter the cells where it is used as fuel by the body.

What are the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

People with Type 1 diabetes their body has destroyed the cells in the pancreas that produces the insulin. So the body is unable to produce any insulin. Hence insulin injections or tablets.

The symptoms of Type 1 are usually very obvious and develop very quickly – typically over a couple of weeks. Symptoms can be relieved quickly once diabetes is treated and under control. This type of diabetes usually appears before the age of 40. 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes.

People with Type 2 diabetes their body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Usually found in white people over 40 but in the South Asian community it can develop from the age of 25.diabetes affect afro caribbeans

African- Caribbeans are 3 times and South Asians are up to six times more likely to have diabetes than white members of the population.

Some Type 2 diabetics end up having to inject insulin or take tablets immediately or over time whilst others manage the medical condition by way of their diet and exercise and take no medication at all.

Can anyone get diabetes?

The simple answer to that is YES. Type 2 diabetes does run in families so is hereditary. However the following risk factors have to be borne in mind at all times along with the all important fact that it is often preventable. It can be managed effectively with lifestyle changes including a healthy diet and keeping active. It is not a disease but a medical condition. It is not contagious so one cannot ‘catch it’ from another person.

Main risk factors that have a bearing on developing Type 2 diabetes include:

A) Age

B) Ethnicity. The ethnic groups who are more prone to developing diabetes are of African- Caribbean origin/descent or South Asian origin/descent.

C) Diet.

D) Lack of exercise and that means a sedentary or couch potato lifestyle.

E) Genetic makeup i.e. genes and metabolism.

F) Being overweight and/or obese. However some people who are not overweight can also develop diabetes.

Are black and minority ethnic people more at risk from developing diabetes?

Yes as mentioned above and as an ethnic group they need to do far more to address the issue as it is not contrary to popular belief a condition that affects only the elderly or older generation.

Why should we be concerned with diabetes?

The complications associated with diabetes if one lacks the self discipline to manage the medical condition are as follows:

Heart disease, blindness, limb amputations, kidney failure, stroke, nerve damage and depression.

Explain the symptoms of diabetes?

Often referred to as the 4 t’s they are thirsty, thinner, tired and toilet. Others are blurred vision, genital itching and thrush. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. It is recommended that ethnic groups from an African-Caribbean or South Asian background should get a test for diabetes once a year, commonly referred to as a diabetes risk assessment as people can have diabetes for up to 10 years without t knowing they have it due to having no symptoms or ignoring the symptoms.

Remember if you are diagnosed with diabetes and your blood sugar levels are brought under control a lot of these signs and symptoms are likely to improve.

How does one prevent getting diabetes and managing it if diagnosed?

Healthy diet, weight control and a lifestyle involving regular exercise are the key things to adopt.

Do you have to take medication for the condition ?

Some people do and others do not. Only the medical practitioners such as your GP or diabetic nurse are best able to decide the most suitable course of action for you in terms of medication based on a number of factors on the yearly or half yearly test results of your blood and urine samples.

For more detailed information and further documentation about diabetes please do any of the following:

1. Visit the Diabetes UK website at: www.diabetes.org.uk

2. Talk in confidence about diabetes. Careline number: 03451232399 Monday – Friday 9.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m.

3. Email Diabetes UK at info@diabetes.org.uk

4. Contact any one of the 10 regional Diabetes UK offices whose numbers can be found on the website.

Written by

Tony Kelly, Diabetes UK Community Champions.