Understanding Diabetes

Published: 12/03/2021

How much do you know about diabetes and the effects it can have on your health? With the serious complications it can cause, it's worth finding out.

Diabetes is a relatively common condition, particularly in developed countries where processed and high sugar foods are a regular part of the diet. While many people live with diabetes (often without being aware they have it) it can have serious consequences for your health if left unmanaged. As it’s World Diabetes Day on 14th November, here’s the lowdown on the two main types of diabetes.


The two types of diabetes

In general, people have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. In both conditions, there is a problem with the production of insulin, a vital chemical made by the pancreas that helps your cells absorb the glucose you get from the carbohydrates in your diet.

Glucose is an essential chemical without which our cells can’t function properly. When glucose can’t enter our cells, not only is our body not able to function to the full, but glucose builds up in the bloodstream.

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether. Fewer than 10% of people with diabetes have this form - which isn’t caused by your lifestyle. The treatment for Type 1 diabetics is to administer insulin regularly to help control sugar levels.
  • The majority of people with diabetes have Type 2. With this form, although the body can produce insulin, it doesn’t work as efficiently as it does in a healthy person which causes the pancreas to overcompensate and create excess insulin. Over time this can lead to a reduction in amount of insulin the pancreas can produce. Again, this leads to high blood sugar levels that affect your health and often requires insulin medication.


How can diabetes affect your overall health?

Consistently high glucose levels can damage the blood vessels, leading to serious health complications, including:

  •     Kidney disease – your kidneys filter your blood and excrete waste, so if they’re damaged by a poor blood supply, waste builds up in your system. Over time the kidneys may fail altogether.
  •     Eye problems – disruption to the tiny vessels in your retina can cause serious sight problems. Diabetics are often at increased risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
  •     Nerve problems – as the nerves are supplied by small blood vessels, any damage to these can result in nerve problems, particularly in the extremities like the hands and feet. Tingling and numbness in the feet is a common complication.
  •     Poor wound healing – without a consistent blood supply, when you’re injured, the body finds it harder to heal.
  •     Heart disease and strokes– when sugar builds up in the blood, the vessels to and from your heart and brain can get damaged and blocked more easily, which can lead to heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Tiredness
  • Needing to urinate more frequently
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dizziness
  • Thrush or itching in the genital area



Keeping blood sugar levels in check

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle and understanding the effects that what you eat has on your condition can go a long way in keeping you as healthy as possible for as long as possible. For some Type 2 diabetics, it’s even possible to go into remission with the right treatment and lifestyle changes.


If you think you might be diabetic, it’s important to get checked by your doctor who can advise you on the treatments available. For ways you can help yourself control or avoid diabetes, visit the NHS website or Diabetes UK, who have plenty of useful information, including a great recipe finder to help you plan healthy, balanced meals.


If you live in the Waltham Forest community and think you or a love one needs more support to manage their diabetes at home, ask our Bluebird Care team about our domiciliary care and live-in care services today.