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What is diabetes?

If you have diabetes then the blood sugars in your body can become too high or too low. This is because your body is unable to turn the sugar that you eat into energy effectively, and this can cause you to become unwell. There are two main forms of diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2.

  • Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition where the immune system attacks and destroys the cells within your body that produce insulin.
  • If you have Type 2 diabetes then your body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells within your body do not react to the insulin you do produce properly.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes or non-diabetic hyperglycaemia is when you find that your blood sugar levels are above the normal range. However, they are not high enough to have a diagnosis of diabetes. Those who have prediabetes are at a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, however, the good news is that you can reduce this through lifestyle changes.

If you are diagnosed as having prediabetes then you may find that you can get help via the NHS diabetes prevention programme. This programme is designed to help you to make those key changes that you need to make to reduce your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future.

It may also be recommended that you have a blood test every single year to monitor your blood sugar levels.

What does undiagnosed diabetes feel like?

It is important to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of diabetes as early as possible. This is because the earlier diabetes is diagnosed, then the better long-term prognosis you will have.

For many people, undiagnosed diabetes will make you feel:

  • Thirsty
  • Tired
  • That you simply cannot gain weight or muscle bulk

If you are someone who has Type 1 diabetes then these symptoms can develop quickly over a matter of weeks or days. Type 2 diabetics may find that their symptoms occur more gradually and are more general, which can mean that it takes them years to seek a diagnosis.

Diabetes in children

It is most common for children to be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes over Type 2. Even though as few as 1 in 10 people have this type of diabetes in the UK. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in childhood because it is related to the fact that your body is unable to make insulin, or the insulin in your body does not properly process the sugars that you eat.

A diagnosis of diabetes in children can be hard for parents, largely because it can be hard to manage, especially in children. There is also no cure for it. However, with time and the right support, you can find ways to manage diabetes and ensure that your child has the healthiest life that they can.

Diabetes ethnicity

Studies have shown that those who are black African, African Caribbean and South Asian (such as Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi are at the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes from a young age.

It is thought that several risk factors are linked to this. Some are easy to manage and some that are not. Some of the links between diabetes and ethnicity include family history as well as social and environmental factors too.

Apart from these indicators, it is not known why people from certain ethnicities are more prone to diabetes than others.

Signs and symptoms

Image of hunger for Learn Q Understanding Diabetes and The Risk Factors blog

We have already covered some of the key things to look out for when you are diabetic. However, here are some of the main symptoms to consider when it comes to seeking out a diabetes diagnosis:

  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty and finding it hard to quench
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Losing weight when you have not been trying to
  • Frequent genital itching and cases of thrush
  • Wounds or cuts that take a long time to heal
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased and persistent hunger

It is important to remember that no one is the same, therefore their symptoms of diabetes may be different to someone else. However, if you feel that you, or someone that you care for, is showing any of the above signs (and in particular those that are in the first four of our list) then you are going to want to seek out medical advice and assistance.

Types of diabetes

When it comes to diabetes it is important to know that there are different types that you can develop. Some are standalone conditions that can last a lifetime, others come with other conditions and therefore can reduce or disappear completely.

Type 1 diabetes

There are fewer than 1 in 10 people in the UK who have Type 1 diabetes. There is nothing that you can do to stop this type of diabetes from developing. It happens because your body cannot make insulin. It is most often diagnosed in children, although, anyone, of any age can develop Type 1 diabetes in their life.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It happens because your body is not making enough insulin hormone or what it makes is not working as it should. It can go undiagnosed for years as symptoms can be missed or can be thought to be something else. It is more often diagnosed in people over the age of 25 and they will have a family history of Type 2 diabetes. Whilst it cannot be cured, it can be improved by changing certain aspects of your lifestyle.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, this is because the insulin that your body produces is not enough to cope with the extra needs you have during pregnancy. It can happen at any stage, however, it is most common during both the second and the third trimesters. Once you have had the baby, you should find that your gestational diabetes will disappear.

Alström Syndrome

Alström Syndrome is a genetically inherited syndrome that is rare but does occur. It causes a range of different symptoms, one of which is Type 2 diabetes. This is usually seen in children who are diagnosed with the syndrome, as they will develop a resistance to insulin over time.

Cystic fibrosis diabetes

Cystic fibrosis diabetes can and does happen as a complication of CF. This is often because people who have CF will usually find that their pancreas doesn’t work properly, and the pancreas is responsible for producing the insulin that your body needs.

Latent Autoimmune diabetes in Adults (LADA)

This form of diabetes is a form of autoimmune diabetes. It occurs during adulthood and is recognised to have some of the key features of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Although it is most closely linked to Type 1.

Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY)

This type of diabetes is a type of diabetes that is found in children, young adults and adolescents, particularly those who are non-obese. These people don’t normally need to have insulin to treat this form of diabetes, they can take other treatments to help them.

Neonatal diabetes

Neonatal diabetes is a rare form of diabetes, that happens during the first 6 months of a child’s life. Infants with this are unable to produce enough insulin and is caused by genetic mutations. It may not require insulin and is treatable.

Steroid-induced diabetes

When you take steroids, for whatever reason you are prescribed them, you are making your liver much less sensitive to insulin. This means that even though there is enough glucose in the body and your pancreas is releasing insulin to counteract it, your liver will carry on releasing more and more glucose.

Type 3c diabetes

Type 3c diabetes occurs when your pancreas is damaged or has a disease. This includes cancer and pancreatitis too. You may also find that you develop this form of diabetes if you have your pancreas removed, either fully or partially.

Wolfram Syndrome

This rare genetic disorder can cause diabetes to occur, it can also cause deafness and optic atrophy too.

Diabetes risk factors

Whilst there are some cases when diabetes “just happens” and you cannot pinpoint a reason. Certain risk factors can cause diabetes to be more likely to develop.


Image of alcohol for Learn Q Understanding Diabetes and The Risk Factors blogA controlled approach to alcohol is not enough to cause diabetes to develop, however, regular, heavy drinking can be a risk factor that you need to consider.

This is because high amounts of alcohol can reduce how sensitive your body is to insulin, which in turn can trigger type 2 diabetes. Another risk factor is that your pancreas can be damaged due to heavy drinking, which will lead to pancreatitis and could cause diabetes.

Disturbed sleep

It is thought that the way that you approach sleep can cause you to be more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Multiple studies have found that this is the case. A lack of sleep, waking up through the night, sleeping too much or having an irregular sleeping pattern are all things that can lead your body to become intolerant to glucose.

Gestational diabetes

Whilst gestational diabetes is a standalone form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, it can cause a longer-term issue. Whilst some women will find their blood sugar is normal after they give birth, as many as 50% of women find that they then develop Type 2 diabetes shortly.

Heart attack or stroke

Both heart disease and strokes are closely linked to diabetes and it is often found that those who have diabetes are much more likely to develop heart disease later in their life. Not only this, but you may also find you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have had a stroke or a heart attack.

Sedentary lifestyle

If you live the type of lifestyle that means that you are sedentary, then you are increasing your risk of diabetes developing over time. This is because when you are frequently inactive, you are more likely to be overweight and therefore you can develop pre-diabetes and then go on to have Type 2.

In comparison, if you are active then you are helping your body to ensure that the insulin that it releases is as effective as possible.


Smoking has been identified as being a leading cause of Type 2 diabetes. If you are a smoker you are increasing your chance of Type 2 diabetes by as much as 40% compared to those who do not smoke. If you continue to smoke when you have been diagnosed as diabetic, then you are also going to make it harder to manage your condition and your insulin dosage.

Diabetes Awareness Training

To properly manage diabetes, or to make sure that you understand what diabetes can mean for others around you, you can attend diabetes awareness training.

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