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Diabetes: Just The Facts

Diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) condition.

It can cause serious health problems if it’s not treated. It‘s a common condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high, because the body isn’t converting glucose into energy as it should. To reduce blood glucose levels, the body tries to do this by flushing out the excess glucose through urine.

Insulin and glucose

Insulin is a hormone (a chemical messenger) that carefully controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin is made by a gland called the pancreas, which lies just behind the stomach.

Glucose from food gives the body energy, and insulin acts as a ‘key’ to the ‘lock’ in the cells that need glucose. The cells use glucose as fuel for your body. Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, chapattis, yams and plantain, and from sweet foods.

When you have diabetes, the glucose in your body is not turned into energy. This means that the glucose stays locked outside the cells, making you feel tired and unwell. You feel tired because your body isn’t making enough insulin – or in some cases none at all.

Type 1 Diabetes – What is it?

  • Most common type of diabetes found in childhood.
  • Signs and symptoms are usually very obvious and develop very quickly, typically over a few weeks.
  • The symptoms are quickly relieved once the diabetes is treated and under control.

Type 2 Diabetes – What is it?

  • Not enough insulin or the insulin isn’t working properly, so the cells are only partially unlocked and glucose builds up in the blood.
  • The signs and symptoms might not be so obvious, because the condition develops slowly over a period of years.
  • May only be picked up in a routine medical checkup.
  • Symptoms are quickly relieved once diabetes is treated and under control.
  • Early diagnosis is very beneficial, so check your Risk Score
  • Accounts for between 85% and 95% of all people
  • Treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity – sometimes alongside medication and/or insulin.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your public health nurse.

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Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.