Diabetes – It’s not that sweet

What do Tom Hanks, Billie-Jean King and Halle Berry have in common? Fame? Fortune? No… Type 2 diabetes, a common disease which can onset silently. In 2018, Diabetes UK reported that over 3 million people in the UK were living with a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes, with a further 1 million living with the disease undiagnosed.  

Medigold Health OHP, Dr Clare Fernandes, provides some helpful advice on what Type 2 Diabetes is and how to manage it.

What is type 2 diabetes? 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common in the UK. It is a condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high. Alongside the thirst, tiredness, and frequent urination, It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves. Type 2 diabetes is caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It’s often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes. 

The disease is a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.

  • Those that are overweight
  • Those aged 35+ 
  • Have diabetes in the family
  • Have gestational diabetes
  • Of South Asian/Hispanic/Afro-Caribbean origin

If you fit the above, or want to get checked, see your GP. S/he will test how your body responds to glucose.

  • Weight loss; eliminates necessity for other treatments in many cases
  • Low-sugar, high-starch diet to prevent rapid blood sugar changes
  • Tablets to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin (the substance secreted to control blood sugar)
  • Stopping smoking

It’s all about sugar control. If sugar levels are kept within normal ranges then complications are less likely. Doctors can measure your sugar control with a blood test, so no cheating!

The results can be pretty nasty if sugar levels are not kept in normal range:

  • Kidneys:  Diabetes causes changes that impair its effectiveness, leading to kidney failure
  • Eyes:  Blockage and thickening of eye blood vessels causes cells to die, resulting in permanent vision problems
  • Poor healing: Increased sugar impairs cells’ ability to fight infection, making minor infections and wounds more serious and longer lasting problems
  • Feet: The nerves to the feet incur damage due to thickening blood vessels. Resulting loss of sensation means you won’t feel gentle knocks or pain from ill-fitting shoes, with impaired healing leading to ulcers and disfiguration
  • Increased likelihood of high blood pressure, and therefore heart disease.

Figure 1. Source NHS Choices

It is vital that people with diabetes receive all nine of the NICE recommended key health tests and measures. These tests help to monitor and manage the condition, as well as to reduce the risk of complications such as stroke, heart disease and amputations.

The nine annual health checks for people with diabetes are:

  • weight and BMI measurements
  • blood pressure
  • smoking status
  • blood test (HbA1c – blood glucose levels)
  • urinary albumin test (or protein test to measure the kidney function)
  • serum creatinine test (creatinine is an indicator for renal function)
  • cholesterol levels
  • eye check (retinopathy (back of the eye) screening)
  • feet check

If you have diabetes and have not received all nine checks in the last year, talk to your GP or practice nurse.

Click here to download your free diabetes information sheet.