Dr Phil Dyer gives advice on Diabetes

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Monthly Health with Heartlands Hospital

Here in the UK we have currently 2.3 million people who have diabetes, with more than half a million unaware they have the condition.

There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent) and type 2 diabetes (non insulin dependent). Type 2 is more common of the both, affecting 90% of cases.

Here’s the science. The pancreas produces juices that flow into the digestive system, helping us to digest food and produce the hormone called insulin. Insulin is the main hormone that controls the flow of glucose (sugar) in and out of the cells of the body. Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas become damaged. It is not known why these cells are damaged but the most likely cause is an abnormal reaction, triggered by infection. Type 2 diabetes is caused by inadequate production of insulin in the pancreas and a resistance to the action of insulin in the body’s cells, especially in muscle, fat and liver cells.

You are considered a high risk if a close member of your family has type 2 diabetes i.e. a parent or brother or sister, if you’re a woman and have had gestational diabetes or have suffered from severe mental health problems.

Type 2 is most common in people who are overweight and do not get enough exercise. The main symptoms to look out for are thirst, frequent urination, tiredness, itchiness especially around the genitals, recurrent infections on the skin e.g. yeast infections or boils.

A major problem with type 2 diabetes is that symptoms in the early stages are so mild they can go unnoticed. Half of those diagnosed have had the condition for months or even years before they know it. It also means a very high proportion of people with type 2 diabetes already show signs of tissue damage to the eyes or hardening of the arteries. Type 2 diabetes is particularly prevalent in South Asian and African-Caribbean people.

There are many ways you can reduce your risk of contracting the disease, keeping an eye on your weight and blood pressure, paying attention to the amount of cholesterol in your blood, and eating a healthy balanced diet.

Treatment of both types can be achieved by keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels near to normal as possible. Effective diabetes care is normally achieved by team work, between you and your diabetes care team. All together with a healthy lifestyle can insure protection against long-term damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and major arteries.

For more information visit NHS Directs www.nhsdirect.nhs.com or Diabetes UK www.diabetes.org.uk

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