Diabetes affects around 4 million people in the UK, or 1 in 16 people. Approximately 90% of people have type 2 diabetes, and the rest have type 1. Living with diabetes can be difficult for some; however, most lead fairly normal lives as long as the disease is controlled.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that causes high levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar). We use blood glucose as our main energy source which we get through the foods we eat. Insulin is a hormone that transfers glucose from food to the cells in your body, it is then converted into energy that can be used.
In some people, the body either doesn't make enough insulin, or it doesn't make any insulin at all. When the body fails to produce insulin properly, glucose never gets to your cells and ends up staying in the blood. If this happens continuously over time, then you'll end up with far too much glucose in your blood which can lead to health complications.
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Needing to urinate often
- Feeling thirsty often
- Feeling tired often
- Blurry vision
- Unintentional weight loss
- Wounds and/or infections taking longer to heal
What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body fails to produce insulin; this is due to the immune system attacking the cells that create insulin within the pancreas. Those with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every single day either; this can be done either through injection or an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes insulin resistant or when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin in the body. Type 2 diabetes is partly genetic, but lifestyle factors can also increase your risk of getting diabetes, these include carrying a lot of weight around your stomach area, having high blood pressure, smoking and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
What are the risks of uncontrolled diabetes?
If blood sugar is not controlled in people with diabetes, serious health complications can occur; these include:
- Infections on the feet
- Cardiovascular disease
- Kidney problems
- Skin conditions/fungal infections
- Hearing problems
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vision loss or blindness
How does diabetes affect the eyes?
Diabetics are more at risk of having complications with their eyes. Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in the UK. Those who have the disease are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy which is caused by high blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can damage the retina, blocking the blood vessels that go to the eye.
Diabetics must have their eyes checked regularly to ensure the eyes remain healthy and disease-free. For people with diabetes, the best way to avoid eye problems is to manage the symptoms of your diabetes by controlling the levels of blood sugar and going for regular check-ups, both for the body and the eyes.