What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. If left untreated, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. They’re different conditions, caused by different things, but both need to be treated and managed properly.
Type1 and Type 2 - What's the difference?
Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, which means your immune system attacks healthy body tissue by mistake. In this case, it attacks the cells in your pancreas. Your damaged pancreas is then unable to produce insulin. So, glucose cannot be moved out of your bloodstream and into your cells.
- Type 1 diabetes is often inherited (runs in families), so the autoimmune reaction may be genetic.
- It's not known exactly what triggers the immune system to attack the pancreas, but some researchers have suggested it may be a viral infection and not to do with diet or lifestyle.
Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body's cells don't react to insulin. This means glucose stays in the blood and isn't used as fuel for energy.
- Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and tends to be diagnosed in older people. It's far more common than Type 1 diabetes
How can I prevent Diabetes?
Unfortunately there is no prevention for Type 1 diabetes. However, if you have been diagnosed with Type 1 you can help prevent or delay complications by keeping on top of your blood sugar levels and attending your regular check-ups. If you are concerned or require more support on managing your Type 1 diabetes, please contact your GP surgery.
For Type 2 diabetes there are some risk factors that can’t be prevented - such as ethnicity background, age or family history. However, there are key things that you can do to help prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes and these include eating well and leading an active lifestyle.
I have Type 1 Diabetes
If you've been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, you'll be referred for specialist treatment from a diabetes care team. They'll be able to help you understand your treatment and closely monitor your condition to identify any health problems that may occur.
- EDUCATION - You should ensure that you have attended a free structured education course, designed to improve diabetes control by teaching the skills of carb counting and insulin dose adjustment. If you been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes for 6-12 months or longer and haven’t been on education course, please contact your GP surgery and this can be arranged for you.
- MEDICATION - Type 1 diabetes occurs because your body doesn't produce any insulin. This means you'll need regular insulin treatment to keep your glucose levels normal. Insulin comes in several different preparations, each of which works slightly differently. For example, some last up to a whole day (long-acting), some last up to eight hours (short-acting) and some work quickly but don't last very long (rapid-acting). Your treatment is likely to include a combination of different insulin.
- EYES - On diagnosis you should be referred by your GP to the local eye screening service; this should be on-going at a minimum of every 12months depending on the outcome.
- FOOD, DRINK AND EXERCISE - Food and drink choices can impact upon your insulin levels so knowing how and what food and drink affects you are important for self- managing your diabetes. A guide to food, drink, recipes and carb counting; along with other useful information on Type 1 diabetes including eating out can be found on the Diabetes UK website:
Information on diet, nutrition and exercise will also be available at the education course.
- CHECK-UPS - It is vital that you attend your diabetes check-ups and any on-going associated HbA1c testing. This is to ensure that your diabetes is under control and that there isn’t any cause for concern. As part of your check up, your health care professional should check your height, weight and blood pressure and any results of blood and urine tests will also be discussed. Your feet should also be checked to make sure there isn’t any risk of developing foot complications associated with your diabetes. You should also check your feet regularly yourself in between your annual check-ups.
Depending on the complexity of your diabetes you may be managed by your GP, Practice Nurse, Community Diabetes Team or all of these professionals.
I have Type 2 Diabetes
If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes your GP will be able to explain the condition and help you understand the treatment, including any medication you may need to take. You’ll need to look after your health for the rest of your life but this isn’t as daunting as its sounds. The following information can help guide you on your journey:
- LIFESTYLE CHANGES - If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you may need to make changes to your current lifestyle; these include eating more healthily, exercising more and losing weight (if you are overweight). The Diabetes UK website has lots of information including recipes and advice on what foods to eat:
o Exercise is a really important part of managing your Type 2 diabetes with the adult recommended daily amount of exercise at 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. For tips on exercise and physical activity routines, please visit the NHS Choices website:
o There are also lots of activities and clubs that can be found locally to you that can help you achieve your 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week exercise target:
For Basildon, Pitsea, Wickford and Billericay, check out the link below:
o Stopping smoking and reducing your alcohol intake is also key to successfully keeping on top of your diabetes. For more information on stopping smoking, speak to your GP or alternatively visit the NHS Smokefree website and sign up for free support:
- MEDICATION - You may require medication to help control your diabetes; your health care professional will discuss this with you and start you on the appropriate level required. Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as your HbA1c levels will also need to be regularly monitored. The frequency of this monitoring will be tailored to your individual needs.
- EDUCATION - You should ensure that you attend a free structured education course, designed to improve diabetes control by teaching the skills of carb counting and insulin dose adjustment. Around the time of diagnosis, you should be offered the opportunity to attend a structured education course - it is very important that you attend as the information provided will assist you with your day-to-day management of your diabetes and any warning signs to look out for. If you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and would like to attend a structured education course, please contact your GP surgery and this can be arranged for you.
- EYES - On diagnosis you should be referred by your GP to the local eye screening service; this should be on-going at a minimum of every 12 months depending on the outcome.
- CHECK-UPS - It is vital that you attend your diabetes check-ups and any on-going associated testing. This is to ensure that your diabetes is under control and that there isn’t any cause for concern. As part of your check up, your health care professional should check your height, weight and blood pressure and any results of blood and urine tests will also be discussed. These should be checked annually as a minimum. Your feet should also be checked to make sure there isn’t any risk of developing foot complications associated with your diabetes. You should also check your feet regularly yourself in between your annual check-ups.
Support for people living with Diabetes (Type1 or Type 2)
It can feel overwhelming when you or a family member is diagnosed with any medical condition and we understand that emotional support is just as important as physical support. There are lots of different support groups and information sources that can help you manage your diabetes locally:
- Diabetes UK Basildon Group
- Diabetes UK Brentwood group
There are also community groups and charities which offer a broad spectrum of support services and can signpost you to the right support for your needs:
Along with support groups and advice, there is also the local VitaMinds service which offers a range of different talking therapies via online, face-to-face and group sessions. The service is for anyone over the age of 18, living in South Essex, who is not currently receiving secondary mental health care or crisis mental health services. In particular, the service can help if you’re experiencing anxiety, stress or depression and many other everyday problems that may have been impacted by your diabetes.
For more information or self-referral please see the website below:
For more information on all areas of diabetes please see the following websites:
Helpful booklets from Diabetes UK:
Videos on foot care
NHS England has produced four videos for people with diabetes and healthcare professionals who care for them. The aim is to enable patients to take more control of their condition by showing them how to look after their feet, what happens at their annual foot check and what to do if they have a problem.