It was recently announced by Diabetes UK that the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has topped 5 million for the first time. And of these, approximately 850,000 don’t even know that they have the life-changing condition. With the right care and support, many cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission, so we’ve identified the early signs here to help you know what to look out for.
What is Diabetes?
There are two main types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition where your body can’t make any insulin because your body attacks the cells in your pancreas that make it. We all need insulin to live as it allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.
When you have type 1 diabetes, your body still breaks down the carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose. But when the glucose enters your bloodstream, there’s no insulin to allow it into your body’s cells so more and more glucose builds up in your bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.
Which type of Diabetes is more common?
Type 2 diabetes is much more common than Type 1. It occurs when the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly or your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. It is still a serious condition but can be managed - and even prevented - through dietary and lifestyle changes.
What are the early signs that you of Diabetes?
Diabetes symptoms occur because some or all of the glucose stays in the blood, and isn’t being used as fuel for energy. The body then tries to reduce your blood glucose levels by flushing the excess glucose out of the body in the urine, making you more thirsty and needing to go to the toilet more often.
The four most common symptoms of diabetes have been labelled the four Ts:
- Toilet - Needing to urinate a lot, especially at night.
- Thirsty - Feeling the need to drink excessive amounts all the time.
- Tired - Feeling more tired than usual.
- Thinner - Losing weight without trying to.
There are other tell-tale signs too:
- Blurred eyesight - If your blood sugar levels change quickly from low to normal, the shape of your eye's lens can swell, causing your vision to be blurred.
- Increased hunger - When there isn't enough insulin to send glucose to your brain and cells throughout the body, your brain sends out hunger signals, making you feel like you need more food, and sugary foods in particular.
- Cuts and wounds take longer to heal - When you have diabetes, your body produces enzymes and hormones that make your immune system less effective, which can lead to infections that may cause diabetic wounds. The cells responsible for wound healing don’t always function properly, due to reduced blood flow, so these wounds can then take longer to heal.
- Genital itching or thrush - High levels of glucose being passed in the urine are a perfect breeding ground for the fungal infection which causes thrush.
What makes diabetes harder to spot is that not everyone gets symptoms. In fact, 6 out of 10 people have no symptoms when they’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Who’s most at risk of developing Diabetes?
The factors that increase your chance of developing diabetes are:
- Your age
- Your ethnicity
- Your weight
- Your waist circumference
- Your family history
- Your medical history
If you think you might be more at risk than others, MyHealthChecked has a DNA test that will indicate how your body’s individual response to blood sugar is influenced by your genes (insert link).
We all metabolise foods in different ways and the way in which our bodies respond to blood sugar will vary significantly from person to person, depending on our genetic make-up. Variations in our genes can affect all sorts of things, including our insulin secretion, zinc intake and B-cell function, all of which have an impact on the glucose levels in our blood.
Severely high or low glucose levels can lead to major health problems so it can help to understand whether you have a genetic predisposition to impaired glucose levels and if so, what that means for you. Simply take a quick and easy cheek swab test and get your results within days, along with clear, actionable advice so you can start taking control of your health.
What should I do if I think I might have Diabetes?
If you feel very unwell or your symptoms have come on quickly, seek an urgent appointment with your GP. Your GP will conduct the necessary tests and advise you on what next steps to take.
What happens if I have Diabetes but don’t get it treated?
It’s rare that type 1 diabetes will be left untreated as it’s usually very hard to ignore the symptoms. The majority of people with type 1 are diagnosed in childhood and early adulthood but without treatment, this type of the condition can lead to serious health problems, including diabetic ketoacidosis, which can result in a potentially fatal coma.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, can be easier to miss as it develops more slowly, especially in the early stages making it harder to spot the symptoms.
Untreated diabetes can affect many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys, but if you are diagnosed early and take steps to manage your blood sugar levels, this can really help to prevent any complications.
Dna Testing And Glucose Management
If you want to get one step ahead of your health, then DNA testing is a great way of managing your health for the future. MyHealthChecked’s Glucose Management DNA Test focuses on how your response to blood sugar is influenced by your genes and how to optimise your diet to manage this response. Our scientists have identified genetic markers that indicate whether your unique blood insulin response could impair your glucose levels. Everybody metabolises the foods we eat differently, the key is understanding your own unique needs to optimise your health. This test will help you learn if you may need to make changes to your diet to improve glucose response. As well as your results, you’ll get a comprehensive report, including advice from our Dietitian Isabela and Doctors Dave and Gavin on how changes to your diet and lifestyle could help optimise your blood sugar levels.
1 - https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/number-people-living-diabetes-uk-tops-5-million-first-time#:~:text=Factors%20such%20as%20income%2C%20education,obesity%20and%20type%202%20diabetes.
2 - https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics