Diabetes is a particularly common, and rather serious medical condition. In the UK, almost 5 million people have diabetes and around a million of those people are not even aware of it.

Perhaps scarily, diabetes is not a condition that always presents itself immediately and, like the above mentioned 1 million, you might not be aware you have developed it until it has progressed quite some way.

If you have diabetes, it is crucial that you appropriately manage your blood sugar levels, regularly reviewing and monitoring them to ensure they remain in the safe range.

What Are The Main Types of Diabetes?
Type 1: the body’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin.
Type 2: the body does not produce enough insulin or its cells do not react to it

How Do I Know If I Have Diabetes?

rows of samples being tested

The symptoms of diabetes can emerge swiftly, or develop at a pace slow enough to go unnoticed for some time. Even though there are 5 different types of diabetes there are several warning signs across all types which can indicate its onset:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Intense thirst
  • Tiredness Itchy and/or dry skin
  • Blurring of vision
  • Hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Slowly healing wounds
  • Yeast infections

If you have any concern at all, please visit your GP as soon as possible. The above will not mean, definitively, that you have diabetes but an early diagnosis can help prevent many more serious health issues (not least of all diabetic ketoacidosis). It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Furthermore, whilst most people with Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed at a young age, the symptoms remain the same at all ages and is the type of diabetes that is most easily and promptly identifiable given as the symptoms develop quite rapidly.

On the other hand, Type 2 typically develops at a slower rate and can therefore take much longer to notice, so make sure you track symptoms in a diary if you start to suspect something may be different to usual

Diabetes and COVID19: Are people with diabetes at a higher risk?
Unfortunately data shows us that those with diabetes have a higher mortality rate if they become hospitalised with coronavirus. Speak to your healthcare team if you’re very worried about your risk, as well as your employer about working from home as much as possible as or making allowances for segregation in the workplace. You can find more advice on the Diabetes UK website.

What Are The Risk Factors That I Can Impact?

a female runner moving up the stairs

Unfortunately, type 1 cannot be prevented. Its risk factors include family history, environmental factors such as exposure to viral illnesses, or damaging autoanitbodies.

Whilst there are still certain risk factors for type 2 diabetes, like age, family history, other medical conditions and ethnicity, that are beyond our control, there are a number of lifestyle choices that can be made that will help mitigate the risk. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Poor diets
  • High blood pressure (not always a controllable factor, but many lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on reducing hypertension)
  • Weight
  • Activity levels

Shockingly, 60% of adults in the UK are overweight or obese and whilst excessive body fat is not the only cause of diabetes, it is the most significant risk factor in its development.

Effectively, by ensuring you maintain a healthy diet and an active lifestyle you are giving yourself the best chance possible of reducing the severity, and number, of risk factors of developing diabetes.

What Next?

a patient consulting with her pharmacist

If you have any doubt around whether you have diabetes or not, it is important to consult with your GP as soon as possible. What’s more, diabetes is a progressive condition that will require continuous review and evaluation over time.

Even if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you can still live a full life. Even though diabetes requires something of a lifestyle change, revolved around careful planning and management, it shouldn’t prevent you from living a life full of the activities you wish to enjoy.

Diabetes UK have a risk tool that can help provide further information against a set of criteria which may ultimately lead to an early diagnosis or, at the very least, encouragement to visit the GP. You can find that tool here.

It is also advisable, for those over 40 years old, to make use of the NHS Health Check that is recommended to have every 5 years. You should automatically receive invitations to have the check up once you come of age though a quick phone call to your GP can be made at any time.

For extra peace of mind, a MedicAlert membership provides tangible security wherever you are. Your membership, coupled with a piece of ID jewellery, will keep you safe during an emergency as medical professionals are trained to look for the internationally recognised MedicAlert symbol that is engraved on all of our pieces of medical ID.

They will immediately see your key medical information as well as our 24/7 helpline allowing them to access all your vital information when you are unable to speak for yourself. This ensures that you receive appropriate care, including insulin management if you are unconscious, protecting you from further complications. 

MedicAlert is a community of members, all of whom live with a wide range of health-related conditions ranging from diabetes and cancer to rare conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. We support all of our members, no matter what, through providing 24/7 emergency access to their medical records in emergencies, ensuring the most efficient, reliable and accessible route for medical professionals in times of need.

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