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Diabetes Week 2018: let’s talk

Posted: 11/06/2018

Diabetes Week takes place from Monday 11 June to Sunday 17 June 2018 in order to raise awareness of the condition. As it can be a difficult subject to discuss, the focus of the 2018 campaign is to get people talking, hence the hashtag #TalkAboutDiabetes.

What is diabetes?

Most people with diabetes will have either type 1 or type 2:

  • type 1 is a lifelong condition where the blood glucose level is too high because the body does not produce insulin;
  • type 2 is also a lifelong condition, but rather than the body producing no insulin, it either creates too little or the insulin that is produced doesnot work properly. 

Some women also develop gestational diabetes while they are pregnant, usually in the second or third trimester. Women with gestational diabetes often do not have diabetes before they fall pregnant and it usually goes once the baby has been born.

Diabetic symptoms

Common symptoms include the following:

  • excessive urination
  • excessive thirst
  • feeling more tired/fatigued
  • weight loss
  • genital itching or thrush
  • blurred vision
  • cuts and wounds that take longer to heal than usual 

If you have any of the above symptoms, you may not necessarily have diabetes, but it is worth checking with your GP as leaving the condition untreated can lead to serious health problems. 

Treatment for diabetes

Type 1 diabetes needs to be treated with insulin in order to control the blood glucose levels, whereas type 2 can sometimes be controlled with a healthy diet and regular exercise. If this does not work, some people with type 2 diabetes will also need to use insulin.

Insulin can either be injected using an insulin pen, or an insulin pump can be used to provide the body with regular insulin throughout the day via a tiny, flexible tube which is inserted under the skin. 

Possible complications 

  • Hypoglycaemia (also known as a hypo) - people with diabetes can sometimes suffer from hypos if the amount of insulin taken isn’t quite right and the blood glucose is too low. Symptoms of a hypo include sweating, shaking, feeling anxious/irritable, paleness, heart palpitations, fast pulse, tingly lips, blurred vision, hunger, feeling tearful, headaches and lack of concentration. A hypo needs to be treated immediately by eating or drinking 15-20g of fast acting carbohydrates, for example eating five jelly babies.
  • Hyperglycaemia (also known as a hyper) - this occurs when the blood glucose levels are too high, which could be due to stress, missed medication, an infection or an over treated hypo. Symptoms of a hyper include excessive urination (especially at night), excessive thirst, headaches and tiredness. The treatment will depend on the cause of the hyper and emergency treatment is often only needed if the blood glucose remains high.
  • Foot problems - diabetes causes poor blood circulation in the feet, so any injuries to this area can take longer to heal than usual. Some diabetic sufferers will not even realise that they have a foot injury and therefore daily foot checks are essential for diabetics to ensure any foot issues are not left untreated. If untreated, foot ulcers can develop and sometimes lead to amputation. All diabetics should be invited to annual foot checks at their GP practice.
  • Eye problems - diabetes can also result in diabetic retinopathy, ie damage to the retina. This occurs when the blood vessels which supply blood to the retina become blocked or damaged and this can be caused by persistent high levels of glucose because of diabetes. If you have diabetes and experience any issues with your eyes, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. 

Diabetic support

There are a number of charities which provide support for diabetics in various forms. Diabetes UK has an online support forum which allows people to share knowledge and stories, or ask for help. The forum can be found here.

The Diabetes UK website also has information and resources for diabetics, their family members and carers. 

Now let’s get talking 

In order to spread the word about diabetes, we encourage you to ‘get talking’ by using the #TalkAboutDiabetes hashtag on social media. Diabetes UK will be sharing peoples stories about living with diabetes throughout the week and the Diabetes Week 2018 poster is available to download from the Diabetes UK website here

Emily Hartland, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “Diabetes Week is a great opportunity to talk about the condition and increase awareness. While most people know what diabetes is, many don’t understand the treatment required or the possible complications that can be caused as a result. Increasing numbers of people are suffering from diabetes, and as a clinical negligence solicitor I have experience in what can happen if complications such as foot sores are not managed appropriately. Penningtons Manches will be joining in with the conversations on social media throughout the week and will be tweeting about all things diabetes.”

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