Diabetes is a common medical condition affecting 3 per cent of the population, which amounts to around 1.4 million people in the UK.
A hormone called insulin regulates sugar (glucose) levels in the bloodstream, enabling it to be utilised as energy. In the absence of or decreased levels of insulin diabetes occurs. This causes the glucose to build up in the blood stream.
Blood sugar comes from both sugary and starchy foods. So people with untreated diabetes will have a high blood sugar even if they avoid eating sweet things.
Types of diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes Type I and Type II.
There is a total absence of insulin. Usually symptoms are of sudden onset and the person becomes unwell rapidly. People must be treated with insulin injections for the rest of their life.
Insulin is still produced, but either insufficient amounts or that produced is not used effectively by the body, cells responding to it poorly (insulin resistance). The signs and symptoms will not be so obvious or can even be non-existent. People often only discover this when they have a routine urine or blood test. There are several types of tablets for controlling Type II diabetes. Often people start treatment on just diet, but often progress on to tablets to control their blood glucose, needing more and more tablets for control. This happens because Type II worsens over time, with the cells producing insulin “wearing out”. Type II patients often go on to need insulin by injection at some point.
- Polyuria (passing a lot of urine)
- Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Urinary/genital infection especially thrush
- Skin infections, particularly boils
- Slow healing of wounds
Causes and risk factors
Nobody knows for sure why the insulin cells are no longer working. Most likely cause is an abnormal reaction of the body to the cells, which can be triggered by a viral or other infection.
- A close member of your family has type II (parents, brother, sister)
- High blood pressure; heart attack or stroke
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (women only) and overweight
- Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glycaemia
- Gestational diabetes (women only).
- Have had severe mental health problem
- Are of Afro Caribbean or Asian origin
This is usually performed by initially testing a urine sample, followed by a blood test if glucose is found.
Sometimes however a more in depth test is required to diagnose Type II. A glucose drink is taken, the blood sugar measured before and after this.
Ongoing treatment and care
The aim of treatment is to control blood glucose and minimise the risk of complications. Having regular reviews at least annually with the doctor or nurse, of different aspects of health that can be affected by diabetes is essential to ensure that treatment is effective and adequate to minimise the risk of complications.
Type I are usually cared for both by GP and as an outpatient at the local hospital. In Nottingham the opportunity for students to transfer case from their home town to Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) is available, where there is a very comprehensive service available, with a very experienced and supportive team of doctors and nurses.
Drop in clinic
As an outpatient registered at QMC there is a Drop in Clinic available at:
Open Monday – Friday 2 – 3:30 pm.
The lead nurse, Karen Besant, or one of her colleagues can be contacted Monday – Friday 9 am – 5 pm on 0115 97 09215 for advice on any aspects of your diabetes care.