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Could you have Type 2 Diabetes and not know it? Yes!

There are 3.8 million people in the UK with Type 2 Diabetes and because it has a slow, insidious onset, it is often well established before a formal diagnosis is made. In fact it is estimated that at the moment there are 1 million people in the UK who have early Type 2 Diabetes but are unaware and will remain undiagnosed until it is discovered as a chance finding while being tested for something else, or until symptoms reach a point of severity where the disease becomes obvious.

So why the concern about type 2 diabetes?

Common complications include:

  • Loss of vision, leading to blindness. It is the most significant cause of adult blindness in the non-elderly in the developed world.
  • Kidney disease, leading to kidney failure and the consequent need for dialysis [artificial filtering of the blood] and kidney transplant. Diabetes is the main cause for dialysis in adults in the developed world.
  • Stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure.
  • Due to nerve damage and poor blood supply to the feet and lower legs, Diabetes causes foot ulcers and infections, often leading to amputation.

Some background.

The full name of Diabetes is Diabetes Mellitus. The word Diabetes refers to frequent urination and the word Mellitus means ‘sweet’ or ‘honey’. So sweet sugary urine is a sign of Diabetes and in the past diagnosis was made by doctors tasting the patients’ urine.

The sugar in the urine comes from high sugar [glucose] levels in the blood, and nowadays diagnosis is made from measuring blood glucose levels.
Normally blood sugar levels are controlled by the hormone Insulin. But in Diabetes things go wrong with Insulin.

There are two main types of Diabetes; although each is a different disease process, they are both called Diabetes because they can present with similar symptoms and both have high blood glucose [sugar]:

  • Type 1 diabetes [previously called Juvenile Onset Diabetes] is a disease process which has a rapid onset, always requires insulin injections, and usually affects younger people. In Type 1 Diabetes the body ceases Insulin production. Only about 10% of all diabetics have Type 1 Diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes (previously called Mature Onset Diabetes) is the most common form of Diabetes, typically affects older people, and is treated with medication in tablet form combined with dieting and exercise. In this disease the body produces Insulin, but it is ineffective.

What are the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?

In the early stages of this disease it is quite possible that you will not experience any symptoms at all and the only way of knowing that you had it would be by blood test to check blood sugar levels.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:

Feeling tired during the day, particularly after meals
Often feeling hungry, particularly if you feel hungry shortly after eating
Urinating more often than normal, particular needing to do so during the night
Feeling abnormally thirsty
Blurring of vision
Itching of the skin, particularly itchiness around the genitals
Slow healing of cuts or wounds
Having repeated yeast infections (thrush)
In men, problems with sexual function

What puts you at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes?

Research done by Diabetes UK, a leading healthcare charity, reveals that while 72% of the population are aware that being overweight and not doing enough exercise can predispose to diabetes, only 37% were aware that large waist size is a very important risk factor also. Women with a waist measurement greater than 31.5 inches, and men with a waist measurement greater than 35 inches, are at HIGH RISK of developing type 2 diabetes.

What can you do?

Early diagnosis is important as the disease can be halted or even reversed if Type 2 Diabetes is diagnosed early. Have your doctor check your blood sugar level after you have fasted for 12 hours.
If you already have established diabetes, good control of weight and blood sugar level, as well as increasing exercise, is essential to minimise the risk of possible complications.