IT is a life-long health condition that kills an estimated 500 people prematurely every week.
Yet, a staggering half a million Brits are completely unaware that they are living with type 2 diabetes – according to Diabetes UK.
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed during childhood and is a result of cells in the body that usually produce insulin being destroyed.
Type 2 is the most common form of the disease, according to Diabetes UK, and is caused when the insulin producing cells are unable to produce enough of the hormone.
In particular, many people have type 2 diabetes without realising because the symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.
In type 2 diabetes, symptoms can develop really slowly, and people with type 2 may have had it for some time before they are diagnosed
Natasha Marsland, a Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK
As Natasha Marsland, a Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, told The Sun Online: “In type 2 diabetes, symptoms can develop really slowly, and people with type 2 may have had it for some time before they are diagnosed.
“Some people with type 2 may not notice any symptoms at all.”
And for National Diabetes Day today, we have shared the key signs and symptoms of the condition to look out for to increase earlier detection and promote action.
1. Peeing more than usual
Needing to go to the toilet more than usual is a common sign of the condition.
This is because after a long period, the pancreas – which produces the insulin – becomes so tired that it can no longer produce enough insulin.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the disease – accounting for between 85 and 95 per cent of all cases, according to Diabetes UK.
It develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin.
It can also be triggered when the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly.
Typically, people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from the age of 40, but there are some exceptions.
In people from southern Asia the disease can appear as early as 25.
And the condition is becoming more prevalent in children, teenagers of all ethnicities.
Experts suggest the rising rates of type 2 diabetes is due to the obesity epidemic – a key cause of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be treated with drugs, and many people can reverse their condition by adopting a healthy lifestyle – a healthy diet and exercise.
High levels of blood sugar then get passed into the urine to try to excrete it from the body.
That’s why you need to pee more and it might smell slightly sweeter than usual.
2. Feeling thirsty all the time
High blood sugar levels can lead to dehydration.
A person with uncontrolled diabetes may experience polydipsia, a form of extreme thirst.
Diabetes can also prevent the body from absorbing water, creating a vicious cycle if the condition is not being managed correctly.
Polydipsia can leave a person feeling an overwhelming need for water, have a very dry mouth or feel dizzy.
3. Afternoon slump and tiredness
4. Losing weight without trying to
A decrease in body weight that occurs unintentionally can be a warning sign of diabetes.
In people with diabetes, insufficient insulin prevents the body from getting glucose from the blood into the body’s cells to use as energy.
When this occurs, the body starts burning fat and muscle for energy, causing a reduction in overall body weight.
Unexpected weight loss is often noticed in people prior to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes but it may also affect people with type 2 diabetes.
5. Genital itching or thrush
Type 2 diabetes can make it extremely itchy and uncomfortable around your penis or vagina.
In diabetes, blood glucose levels can go abnormally high, which can therefore provide ideal conditions for naturally present yeast to grow and also diminishes the body’s ability to fight infection.
Diabetes can also cause a higher glucose content in the urine – another extremely suitable place for yeast to thrive.
6. Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
Wounds or sores that take more than a few weeks to heal often indicate diabetes.
High levels of blood glucose caused by diabetes can, over time, affect the nerves (neuropathy) and lead to poor blood circulation.
Those most at risk of type 2 diabetes
The NHS has revealed that you’re more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:
- are over 40 (or 25 for south Asian people)
- have a close relative with diabetes (such as a parent, brother or sister)
- are overweight or obese
- are of south Asian, Chinese, African Caribbean or black African origin (even if you were born in the UK)
This makes it hard for blood – needed for skin repair – to reach areas of the body affected by sores or wounds.
This can cause them to remain open and unhealed for months, increasing the risk of fungal infections, bacterial infections and gangrene.
7. Blurred vision
You may not know this, but type 2 diabetes can cause vision loss.
And according to experts, it is the leading cause of vision loss among adults aged 20 to 74.
If the disease is left uncontrolled it can alter the blood in the retinal blood vessels – the blood vessels in the eyes – which can cause them to leak.
If the blood vessels begin to leak it can cause a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss among sufferers.
Diabetes has also been linked to cataracts and glaucoma.
Diabetes UK have recommended using there Know Your Risk tool if you think you might be at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Natasha Marsland, Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, added: “If you think you might be at risk of type 2 diabetes, Diabetes UK’s Know Your Risk tool can help you understand your risk, which is an important first step in making changes to reduce it.
“If you’re concerned about your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you can also discuss this with your GP.”