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Diabetes: Just The Facts

Diabetes is classed as a chronic condition.

This means it is a condition you have for your whole life.

It happens when the blood glucose levels (the amount of sugar in the blood) are too high because the body is unable to convert the blood glucose into energy. This is because your body doesn’t make enough insulin. Your body then tries to get rid of the excess glucose in your wee.

If diabetes is left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems or death. Although there’s no cure for diabetes, there are things you can do to help you manage the condition and stay well.

Insulin and glucose

Insulin is a hormone (a ‘chemical messenger’ in the body) which is produced by the pancreas. When food is digested and all the nutrients enter the bloodstream, insulin removes the glucose from the blood, so it can be broken down to produce energy. People with diabetes are not able to break down the glucose in the same way. This is either because their body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin it does produce doesn’t work properly.

Glucose is the name for a sugar that comes from food. It mainly comes from foods that contain carbohydrates. That includes starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes, chapattis, yams, plantain, as well as sweet foods. Insulin breaks down the glucose to give you energy. If you have diabetes, your body struggles to do this, which leaves you feeling tired and unwell.

There are two types of Diabetes, type 1 and type 2, and there are also some rarer types of the condition. Some people experience ‘pre-diabetes’ symptoms.

Type 1 Diabetes – What is it?

  • Type 1 Diabetes is the most commonly found type of diabetes in children.
  • Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by age, diet or lifestyle factors. It happens when the body attacks the cells within the pancreas that make insulin, so the body produces less insulin, or stops producing it altogether.
  • Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually very obvious, developing quickly, usually over a few weeks. Symptoms resolve quickly once they have been treated and the diabetes is under control.
  • People with type 1 diabetes need to have daily injections of insulin to help control their blood glucose levels and keep them within normal ranges.

Type 2 Diabetes – What is it?

  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Around 90% of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 2.
  • Type 2 diabetes is where the insulin the pancreas makes does not work properly or it can’t make enough insulin.
  • People can have undiagnosed diabetes for a number of years without realising it.
  • Symptoms are quickly resolved once treatment is started.
  • There are two different ways that Type 2 Diabetes can be managed:
  1. Healthier eating, increasing activity and losing weight
  2. Medication
  • Early diagnosis can be beneficial, if you think you may be at risk, speak to your GP.

Prediabetes – What is it?

Prediabetes is where your blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, but not high enough for doctors to give a diagnosis of diabetes. Many people who have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes had prediabetes beforehand without realising it. Having prediabetes can increase your risk of developing diabetes in later life.

If you have any concerns regarding diabetes, speak with either your school nurse or your GP. Remember with the correct support and keeping your diabetes under control it does not need to affect your social life, relationships, education or carer prospects.

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 school nurse.

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