Diabetes Factsheet

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Post on 31-Mar-2016




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What you need to know about diabetes, from registered GP Dr Dawn Harper. For more information or to ask a question, visit her Facebook Page - www.facebook.com/drdawnharper





    There are around 2.8 million diabetics in the UK with possibly another million who have not yet been diagnosed. Add to this, estimates that these numbers could double in the next ten years and its easy to see why diabetes is such a major health concern. Diabetes is a chronic and currently incurable condition but recognising it early and managing it appropriately makes a real difference to the incidence of complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, blindness, strokes and kidney failure.

    Diabetes and air travel

    I always have lots of queries from concerned diabetics about flying and whether they will be allowed to take their insulin and syringes on the plane. If you are travelling, its worth contacting the airline before you leave. I usually give my diabetic patients a covering letter to take with them. Alternatively, Diabetes UK (020 7424 1000) can provide an insulin users identity card. Its important to keep the insulin and syringes in hand luggage, not least, so that its available if you should be delayed. Insulin may freeze if kept


    How do you know if you have it and who should be tested?

    Common symptoms include lethargy, increasing thirst, passing urine more frequently, weight loss and recurrent infections like boils or thrush. Testing for diabetes involves dip testing a sample of urine and I think any of the following groups should be tested:

    Anyone with the symptoms listed above. Anyone over 40 with a family history. Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) over

    30 see BMI factsheet for further info. Anyone with any of the complications of


    in the hold and could be damaged so dont be tempted to put it in your suitcase.

    A few other tips for diabetic travellers:

    Always take more insulin and syringes than you need to cover delays.

    Keep some carbohydrate with you in case meals are late.

    Most airlines will provide diabetic meals if you pre-order.


    Diabetes in the young

    At the risk of sounding fattist, I have to say that the majority of patients I see in my surgery are overweight and many of them clinically obese. Sadly, I am not just talking about the adults. In the last 20 years, the number of obese children in this country has rocketed and now we are starting to see our youngsters develop medical problems like type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when fat and muscle cells lose their sensitivity to insulin (the hormone which controls blood sugar levels) and it is directly related to diet and weight. The increasing incidence of this type of the disease is a real health concern as with it comes the increased risk of heart attacks and strokes at an ever younger age.

    We must act now to reverse this trend and the answer is in changing behaviour and lifestyle. Only one generation ago, our children tended to walk or cycle to school and after school they would be kicking a ball around or playing tag. Today, they are more likely to be in front of a computer or a playstation - we are breeding a generation of couch potatoes. About of obese children will remain obese into adult life so it is vital that we address this problem in childhood.


    Lately, I have started to feel constantly thirsty no matter what I drink. I have been told that this can be a symptom of diabetes and now I worry that Im ill. My mum suggested seeing the doctor but should I wait and see if it passes?

    You are right excessive thirst (or polydypsia) can be a sign of diabetes. As both you and your Mum have noticed you are drinking more and are worried about it, you should get checked. Your doctor may be able to rule out diabetes by dip testing your urine - it doesnt automatically mean a blood test. So make an appointment and take a urine sample with you. If you are given the all clear it could be that you have just got into a habit but its best to know.

    My 48-year-old sister has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. No one else in my family has ever had it, but could I be at risk of developing it too?

    A new diagnosis of diabetes at 48 is almost certainly type 2 diabetes the type that is usually treated with diet and tablets rather than insulin. Relatives of anyone with type 2 diabetes have a slight increased risk of developing the condition but the single biggest risk factor is weight gain. The fact that your sister has developed the disease makes it vital for you that you keep your weight under control. You should aim for a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 25. See my BMI factsheet for further info on this.

    Lately Ive been having dizzy spells where I feel light-headed and have blurred vision. Also, the noise around me sounds louder. Im really worried as Ive been more thirsty lately too. Its happened around six times in the last two months. Whats wrong?

    Its difficult to say without seeing and examining you Laura. It may be nothing to worry about at all - its common for girls of your age

    to experience dizzy spells and even fainting particularly if you are slim. Often all that needs to be done is to avoid standing up quickly to stop your blood pressure from falling quickly, but you need to see your doctor on this one to rule out things like diabetes. So make an appointment to see him or her and take a urine sample with you so that they can test it for sugar.

    For more information on diabetes and other tell tale signs visit www.diabetes.org.uk

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