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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood glucose (sugar) levels to become too high.

The amount of glucose in the blood is controlled by the hormone insulin that is produced by the pancreas. Insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells where it is broken down to produce an essential source of energy that fuels our bodies.

If you have diabetes the body is unable to move glucose into your cells.

What are the different types?

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes: The body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas so the body doesn’t make any insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes: The body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin this is known as insulin resistance

There are also some rarer types of diabetes such as gestational diabetes in pregnancy.

Although there are no lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is often linked to obesity.

In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2 and one in 10 men now has diabetes. However due to the rise in obesity this figure is expected to increase. In addition, many people have pre-diabetes, this is where there blood glucose levels is above the normal range (4 – 7 mmol) increasing your risk of developing the condition.

If you have diabetes, it is important to eat healthily, take regular exercise and carry our regular blood tests to ensue your blood glucose levels remain stable.

It is also important to have regular health check-ups and be aware of the likely long-term complications, so that early detection and treatment is possible. 

Nutrition and lifestyle medicals


If you are concerned about your risk of diabetes it is important that you seek medical advice as too much glucose in your blood can cause a range of health problems.

The main symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Slow-healing cuts or wounds
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent gum or skin infections and for woman vaginal infections

Complications of diabetes

Blood vessels can be damaged by the effects of high blood glucose levels and poorly controlled diabetes can cause or lead to:

  • Heart disease and stroke
    Heart and chest services
  • Diabetic retinopathy; the blood vessels of the retina become damaged which can lead to sight loss
    Eye Centre
  • Kidney disease; if the small blood vessels in the kidneys become damaged and stop working as efficiently, this condition is often called diabetic nephropathy
    Kidney services
  • Nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, is when the small blood vessels that supply nerves can be disrupted, leading to problems with nerve function
  • Sexual problems; erectile dysfunction is very common for men suffering with diabetes and women may experience a variety of sexual difficulties, which can include arousal difficulties and pain during sex
  • Foot problems; due to poor circulation and nerve damage, can mean that cuts and grazes go un-noticed and become infected. The poor blood supply means that infections are slow to heal and may become ulcerated.

Diabetes services

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