DIABETES is a life-long health condition which affects around 3.5 million people in the UK alone.
Today is World Diabetes Day, and experts estimate there are up to 549,000 people living with diabetes who don’t know it yet. But what is it exactly and what are the difference between the two types?
Getty Images Around 3.5 million people in the UK suffer diabetes, while another 549,000 are thought to be living with the disease without knowing
What is diabetes?
It is a condition caused by high levels of glucose – or sugar – in the blood.
Glucose levels are so high because the body is unable to properly use it.
In people diagnosed with diabetes, their pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, or not enough insulin.
Getty Images Obesity is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes. By adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle some people with the condition can reverse their symptoms
Insulin is a hormone typically produced by the pancreas and allows glucose to enter the cells in the body, where it’s used for energy.
What are the signs to look out for with diabetes?
The common signs you may have diabetes include:
- going to the toilet a lot, especially at night
- being really thirsty
- feeling more tired than usual
- losing weight, without trying to
- genital itching or thrush
- cuts and wounds that take longer to heal
- blurred vision
The symptoms are caused by high levels of glucose remaining in the blood, where it cannot be used as energy.
These signs are common in children and adults alike. But, adults suffering type 1 diabetes can find it harder to recognise their symptoms.
Diabetes UK’s four T’s campaign aims to raise awareness of the key signs.
What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
All types of diabetes cause blood glucose levels to be higher than normal, but the two different types do this in different ways.
The distinction lies in what is causing the lack of insulin – often described as the key, that allows glucose to unlock the door to the cells.
With type 1 diabetes, a person’s pancreas produces no insulin, but in type 2 cells in the body become resistant to insulin, so a greater amount of insulin is needed to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range.
Getty Images As well as being advised to eat a healthy diet and take more exercise, both forms of diabetes can be treated using different drugs
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the disease – accounting for between 85 and 95 per cent of all cases, according to Diabetes UK.
It develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin.
It can also be triggered when the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly.
Getty Images Insulin is a hormone typically produced by the pancreas and allows glucose to enter the cells in the body, where it’s used for energy. Diabetes is where the body cannot properly use insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise
Who is at risk from type 2 diabetes?
Typically, people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from the age of 40, but there are some exceptions.
In people from southern Asia the disease can appear as early as 25.
And the condition is becoming more prevalent in children, teenagers of all ethnicities.
Experts suggest the rising rates of type 2 diabetes is due to the obesity epidemic – a key cause of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be treated with drugs, and many people can reverse their condition by adopting a healthy lifestyle – a healthy diet and exercise.
Getty Images Type 1 diabetes is always controlled using an insulin injection or pump, whereas few cases of type 2 require insulin
What is type 1 diabetes? Who is at risk from it?
Type 1 diabetes is where the cells in the body that typically produce insulin have been destroyed, leaving the body unable to produce the key hormone.
It’s far less common, affecting around 10 per cent of adults who have the disease.
It is treated with daily insulin injections or an insulin pump.
This form of the disease typically occurs in childhood, or before the age of 40 and is not linked to obesity.
One well-known sufferer of Type 1 diabetes is Prime Minister Theresa May. She has recently revealed that she has to inject herself with insulin up to five times a day to manage her condition.
While pregnant women can also suffer from gestinational diabetes, when they produce too much blood sugar while carrying their unborn baby.
Model Danielle Lloyd has told how she suffered from the condition while pregnant with her fourth child and was told to have bed rest.
What are the treatments for diabetes?
As well as being advised to eat a healthy diet and take more exercise, both forms of diabetes can be treated using different drugs.
However, whereas a healthier lifestyle can often reverse the symptoms in people with type 2 diabetes, it does not have the same dramatic effect on type 1 diabetes.
Getty Images Those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will sometimes need to take drugs, alongside living a healthier lifestyle
Every person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will have to take insulin via injection or a pump.
Some type 2 diabetics will also need insulin, though it is less common.
Those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will sometimes need to take drugs, alongside living a healthier lifestyle.
This medication is designed to lower blood sugar levels, but cannot cure the disease.
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, so worsens over time, meaning some people will need more medication to control it as it progresses.
To find out more, visit Diabetes UK.
Could you have pre-diabetes? Take this quick and easy test to find out