Around 350 million people worldwide live with diabetes and the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that the disease will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.
World Health Day 2016, on April 7, is themed Beat Diabetes and will be used to publicise the growth in diabetes cases while emphasising that it is both treatable and preventable.
The figures for UK diabetes are worrying. Diabetes affects 3.9 million people now and it’s estimated that five million people will have it by 2025.
Up to 600,000 people in the UK have diabetes without realising it, often assuming their early symptoms are due to getting older or having a busy lifestyle.
Diabetes is a problem affecting the sugar levels in the body. A hormone called insulin controls the level of sugar in the blood. When food is digested, insulin helps the process of converting glucose into the energy needed by the body.
If you have diabetes, your body can’t break down glucose into energy either because you don’t have enough insulin, or the insulin you produce doesn’t work properly.
General symptoms of diabetes include feeling more thirsty, urinating more frequently, feeling more tired, weight loss and blurred vision.
The two main types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, meaning insulin is not available to help lower blood sugar, leading to soaring sugar levels.
People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin, often via regular daily injections, throughout their lives, and must ensure their blood sugar levels stay balanced.
Ninety per cent of all adults with diabetes in the UK have Type 2 diabetes. This is often due to the body becoming resistant to insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity and was previously known as ‘adult-onset’ diabetes. Worryingly, with obesity levels rising, it is now being seen in children and adolescents.
Those with Type 2 diabetes may be able to control their symptoms by eating healthily, exercising regularly and monitoring their blood sugar levels, though Type 2 is a progressive condition and patients often eventually need medications.
A third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, where pregnant women have such high levels of blood sugar that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to deal with it. Gestational diabetes usually develops during the second trimester of pregnancy, and often disappears after the baby is born.
Diabetes can have serious health consequences, including heart disease and blindness. However, it can be controlled and many people with the condition live full lives by helping themselves to a healthier, more active lifestyle.
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned here as early diagnosis is important.