What is Type 1 Diabetes and how is it different to Type 2?
Type 1 diabetes is affecting around 360,000 people in the UK today.* Diabetes is a lifelong, metabolic condition that affects an individual’s blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Our body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose – small, sugar units that are used up in cells to provide the body with energy. Under normal circumstances, an organ called the pancreas produces insulin, which is a hormone designed to control the amount of glucose in the blood.
However, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas no longer produces any insulin. As a result, unused glucose builds up in the blood, causing blood sugar levels to become too high. This can lead to the sudden development of potentially life-threatening symptoms.
Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms
As the body tries to remove the excess glucose through urine and break down fat as an alternative source of energy, people with Type 1 diabetes typically experience the following symptoms:
- Needing to urinate more, especially during the night
- Often feeling thirsty
- Increased tiredness and drowsiness
- Loss of weight and muscle bulk
- Increased hunger, but losing weight
- Itchiness around the genital area or regularly contracting thrush (yeast infection)
- Fruity-smelling breath
- Numbness in hands and feet
Whilst in adults Type 1 diabetes symptoms can develop over a few months, for children it can be a matter of weeks or days. However, with the right treatment, they should disappear. If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes and frequently experience these symptoms, you should visit a health care professional as soon as possible.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar we use as a source of energy. Once glucose is released from the food we eat and enters the bloodstream, your body releases a hormone called insulin. Type 2 diabetes is caused when the body responds abnormally to the insulin produced, creating a resistance. This means that unused glucose can build up in your bloodstream causing high blood sugar levels.
Type 2 Diabetes Signs and Symptoms in Adults
With less obvious symptoms than Type 1, people who have Type 2 diabetes may be unaware. Type 2 diabetes symptoms in both women and men can develop relatively slowly and therefore can often go unnoticed for an extended period of time. However, the most common symptoms in adults are:
- Increased thirst
- Passing water more often, especially at night
- Extreme tiredness
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing wounds
- Genital itching and regular instances of thrush
Have I got diabetes?
If you think you may have developed Type 2 Diabetes, I am here to help. The test is for people aged 16 and over who may be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, a condition characterised by what is known as insulin resistance.
This is where the body does not effectively respond to the insulin produced, as a result blood sugar levels become too high. It can be managed by taking tablets and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
How I test for diabetes
What to expect at a Type 2 Diabetes screening appointment
You will be asked a series of questions and I will take some measurements in order to help determine whether you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, including:
- Your age
- Your height, weight and waist measurement
- Your level of daily activity
- Your diet, in particular how many fruit and vegetables you eat
- If you have ever had a high blood glucose reading
- If any family member has diabetes
If you are at high risk, I will measure your blood pressure and your random blood glucose level, by taking a very small finger prick sample of blood. A random blood glucose test is a blood sugar test taken without needing to fast beforehand.
Depending on the results of this test, I may ask you to come back for further assessment. This will include:
- A fasting blood glucose test, which involves taking a sample of blood when you have an empty stomach (usually first thing in the morning before you have breakfast)
- Weight, height and waist measurement
- Additional blood pressure measurements
We will also offer you lifestyle advice and recommend ways of reducing your chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes, tailored to your needs. If appropriate, I may refer you to your doctor.
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