Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
- type 1 diabetes – where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
- type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not 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.
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
- peeing 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.
Causes of diabetes
The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach). When food is digested and enters your bloodstream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it’s broken down to produce energy.
However, if you have diabetes, your body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there’s either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or the insulin produced does not work properly. There are no lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of type 1 diabetes. You can help manage type 2 diabetes through healthy eating, regular exercise and achieving a healthy body weight.
Read about how to reduce your diabetes risk.