Education on Diabetes

Confused about ‘types’ of diabetes? Here is your diabetes 101

Diabetes is a condition that confuses the vast majority of the population. People never know which type is what, if it can be cured, if it is due to obesity and so on…

There are several types of diabetes, but this blog will be covering Type 1 and Type 2.

The aim for this blog is to help raise awareness and educate people who don’t know a great deal about this condition, and want to learn more.

From a diabetics point of view, the lack of understanding and awareness can be incredibly frustrating (which I will discuss further in next weeks blog!).

There is so much negativity that surrounds diabetes and this can sometimes cause a lot of anxiety for diabetics. I’m really hoping by raising awareness it will prevent people from jumping to conclusions and automatically thinking someone is ‘unhealthy’ just down to the fact that they have diabetes. This is often not the case, so lets look into the different types of diabetes.

What is Type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune condition, where the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin.
This means the individual cannot control their blood glucose levels without injecting insulin.
This can happen for a number of reasons, including genetic susceptibility and environmental aspects.
For example, certain viruses can ‘confuse’ the immune system, and cause it to attack the pancreas, resulting in Type 1 diabetes .

This is a condition that anyone can get, despite looking completely healthy and having no family history of the condition.

Can Type 1 diabetes be cured?

To clarify, if someone has Type 1 diabetes, it does not mean they are unhealthy, the reason they got diabetes is completely out of their control and it currently cannot be cured.

What is the treatment for Type 1 diabetes?

People with Type 1 diabetes are insulin dependent, and have to inject insulin when carbohydrates are eaten. This is so the body can utilise carbohydrates for energy, and put them into storage.

A very important point to note is that Type 1 diabetics HAVE to eat carbohydrates. If we ‘cut all carbs out’ of our diet like a lot of people think, it will cause hypoglycaemia.
Hypoglycaemia is where the blood does not have enough glucose. This is very serious and can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. Diabetics can experience BOTH high glucose (hyperglycaemia), and low glucose (hypoglycaemia).

Therefore, it is imperative for diabetics to eat a balanced diet, and to inject the correct ratio of insulin for the amount of carbs eaten (this is called carbohydrate counting).

Many factors can impact how much insulin is injected, it varies depending on how much the person has exercised, how many carbohydrates have been eaten, the persons plans after the meal, and even if the person is feeling unwell. There are an endless list of what impacts a diabetics sugar levels, so calculating an insulin dose can be extremely difficult at times.

Type 1 diabetes Statistics

There are currently 400,000 people in the UK living with T1D.

85% of people diagnosed with T1D have no family history of the condition.

Individuals with diabetes will have around 65,000 insulin injections in their lifetime (at least!!).

All of the above are taken from JDRF

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) can be caused for a number of reasons. But broadly speaking, Type 2 diabetes is when the body either stops producing insulin and/or cells become insulin resistant.

What is insulin resistance?

This is a term that people love to throw about when talking about diabetes!
Insulin resistance is when insulin receptors can no longer react to insulin.
This can result from a number of factors, such as ethnicity, genetics, obesity, age, chronic stress and a sedentary lifestyle.

When cells become insulin resistant, it means that glucose cannot get inside of cells, meaning it remains in the blood stream, resulting in hyperglycaemia.

Hyperglycaemia is extremely damaging to small blood vessels inside the body, particularly vessels in the eyes, kidneys, feet and nervous system, potentially causing some traumatic long-term complications.

Can Type 2 diabetes be cured?

There is still no scientifically proven cure for Type 2 diabetes, as stated by Diabetes UK, ‘scientists are working on a ground-breaking weight management study, to help put their Type 2 diabetes into remission’.
Read further here:

‘Remission’ is the term used when a Type 2 diabetics sugar levels are back in range again. It does not mean their diabetes has completely gone.

Of course remission is the goal for many Type 2 diabetics, and this can dramatically reduce the risk of getting long-term complications. It is very important to get blood glucose as close to the ‘normal range’ as possible.

How is Type 2 diabetes treated?

The treatments for Type 2 diabetes vary depending on the individual, most newly diagnosed diabetics are advised to alter their diet and increase their exercise. If this is not enough, tablets are given to decrease blood glucose. If this is still not enough to drastically reduce blood glucose, the individual will have to start injecting insulin, the same as Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes Statistics

1 in 10 people over 40 in the UK are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Around 1 million people are living with type 2 diabetes in the UK that haven’t been diagnosed!

Statistics taken from Diabetes UK

Reducing your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes

  1. Keep active! – Try to get a form of exercise in everyday, and lose weight if you are overweight.

2. Eat a balanced diet- Ensure you are eating wholemeal/wholegrain carbohydrates, fruit and/or vegetables, a source of protein and healthy fats with every meal. Avoid eating refined and processed foods everyday.

3. Learn the symptoms of diabetes – The sooner Type 2 diabetes is caught, the easier it is to achieve the ‘remission’ stage. Learn the symptoms by looking at my ‘symptom page’ or on the NHS website.

4. Identify how at risk of Type 2 diabetes you are – If you have family history of Type 2 diabetes, are older, have African-Caribbean, Black African or South Asian descent, or are obese, consider how high your risk is. This enables you to put measures in place to prevent getting Type 2 diabetes as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for reading this blog! I really hope you learned something new, subscribe for more content and let me know what posts and information you would find useful!