Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.
There are 2 main types of diabetes:
• Type 1 diabetes – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
• Type 2 diabetes – where the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells don't react to insulin
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2. During pregnancy, some women have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes.
When to see a doctor
Visit your GP as soon as possible if you experience the main symptoms of diabetes, which include:
• feeling very thirsty
• urinating more frequently than usual, particularly at night
• feeling very tired
• weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
• itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
• cuts or wounds that heal slowly
• blurred vision
Type 1 diabetes can develop quickly over weeks or even days. Many people have type 2 diabetes for years without realising because the early symptoms tend to be general.
World Diabetes Day
On November 14th each year, World Diabetes Day aims to increase an awareness of the effects of diabetes and the complications caused by the disease. It is a significant date in the diabetes calendar because it marks the birthday of the man who co-discovered insulin, Frederick Banting. Banting discovered insulin in 1922, alongside Charles Best.
The theme for World Diabetes Day 2018 is ‘Family and Diabetes’ and the main aim is to:
• raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and support network of those affected.
• promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of diabetes.
Over 425 million people are currently living with diabetes. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through regular physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, and the promotion of healthy living environments.
Families have a key role to play in addressing the modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes and must be provided with the education, resources and environments to live a healthy lifestyle.
1 in 2 people currently living with type 2 diabetes is undiagnosed. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to prevent the complications of diabetes and achieve healthy outcomes.
All families are potentially affected by diabetes and so awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors for all types of diabetes are vital to help detect it early.
Less than 1 in 4 family members have access to diabetes education programmes. Family support in diabetes - care has been shown to have a substantial effect in improving health outcomes for people with diabetes. It is therefore important that ongoing diabetes self-management education and support be accessible to all people with diabetes and their families to reduce the emotional impact of the disease that can result in a negative quality of life.
Why might someone with diabetes need the help and support of their family?
Living with diabetes is not easy. In order to successfully manage diabetes, most diabetics need to make some serious lifestyle changes (https://www.diabetes.co.uk/emotions/tackling-lifestyle-changes.html).
Learning how to monitor and control blood sugar levels can take time, and the threat of serious health problems never goes away (https://www.diabetes.co.uk/blood-glucose/blood-glucose-monitoring-diarie...).
For this reason, a person who has diabetes may need the help and support of their family. How you can best help is likely to vary depending on how the family member views their own condition.
Diabetics may face numerous complications and may also be more prone to depression and stress.
How can one help relatives with diabetes?
Education is the key to helping people with diabetes, just as it is in preventing type 2 diabetes - https://www.diabetes.co.uk/education/ Learn as much as you can, because the more you understand about the disease, the more you can help. Be sympathetic about the condition, particularly for those people who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes can be an insidious and frustrating condition, and induces fear in some people.
What healthy changes should I encourage my relative to make?
If you and your relative share meal times, make sure that they eat the same healthy food that you do. Try not to buy any types of food that he or she shouldn’t eat ( https://www.diabetes.co.uk/food-and-recipes.html).
Diabetics need to stay aware of their diet, and if you understand a healthy diabetic diet this can be all the easier to communicate to your relative. Exercise is another fundamental part of diabetes management. Relatives can make exercising easier by agreeing to exercise together, although each diabetic should speak to their healthcare adviser in order to find out what type of exercise will suit their condition.
What else can I do to help the diabetic or diabetics in my family?
Knowledge is power here, and if you can learn how to recognise any signs of problems, you could be a genuine help.