Preventing diabetes and recognising its symptoms

Date published: 14 November 2017

More than 90,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It's important to know the signs and symptoms to ensure early diagnosis and reduce the risk of serious complications.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes comes in two forms: type 1 and type 2. 

Type 1 diabetes, which cannot be prevented, develops when the insulin-producing cells have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin. It generally occurs in children and young adults. Type 1 accounts for approximately 10 per cent of cases.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly (also known as insulin resistance). 

Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented and accounts for 90 per cent of all diabetes cases. 

Having a family history of type 2 diabetes can increase your chances of developing the disease.

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If you have diabetes, a healthy diet and regular exercise are very important.

Prevention

If you are overweight or obese, the key step to preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes is to lose weight and improve fitness. You can do this by making healthy food choices and being physically active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

This is particularly important for women who have a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy and who need to pay special attention after their pregnancy to their diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Symptoms

Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • increased thirst
  • blurred vision
  • frequent need to urinate (bedwetting with children)
  • extreme tiredness
  • slow-healing infections
  • unexplained weight loss 

Sometimes with type 2 diabetes, there might be no symptoms. Early diagnosis is important. If you think you might have diabetes, speak to your GP or pharmacist.

Effects

Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes. Over time this leads to serious damage to many of the body's systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels. 

The effects of diabetes and its complications cannot be underestimated. Diabetes, left untreated, can cause:

  • heart disease
  • kidney damage
  • eye problems which can affect vision
  • foot problems, potentially leading to amputation

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