Diabetes, The Most Underestimated Health Condition

A happy woman eating salad. A healthy diet is key in managing diabetes

Diabetes currently affects around three and a half million people in the UK. Of these, 10% have Type 1 diabetes and 90% have Type 2. According to the charity Diabetes UK, there has been a 65% rise in cases in the past decade. By 2025 it is predicted that five million people will have the condition, with one million people living with undiagnosed Type 2.

Research by LloydsPharmacy shows around 100,000 people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes every year – by the time they’re diagnosed, over half will have experienced at least one complication.

It’s stark reading – but there are effective ways to manage your symptoms and live a healthy, happy life.

What exactly is diabetes?

Everybody needs glucose to maintain optimum energy levels. When we eat food, glucose levels increase and the body releases a hormone called insulin, which regulates those levels. Diabetes develops when the body can’t produce insulin – or not enough of it to cope with glucose in the blood – leading to high blood sugar levels.

This results in symptoms including increased thirst, more frequent urination, blurred vision, extreme tiredness and weight loss. Those with diabetes are at far greater risk of developing pain, tingling and numbness in the feet, as raised blood sugars can damage sensation and circulation.

What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?

If you’re diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, it means that your body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. When insulin is not produced your glucose levels increase, which can result in the body’s organs being damaged. People living with Type 1 diabetes rely on insulin injections and need to keep a close eye on their blood glucose levels to ensure they stay balanced.

If you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it means that your body fails to produce enough insulin, or that your body’s cells are resistant to insulin. People living with Type 2 diabetes can often control the symptoms by having a healthy diet and lifestyle and, in particular, checking their blood glucose levels carefully. If Type 2 diabetes progresses, patients will require medication.

Unfortunately, for many people, there is a stigma attached to Type 2 diabetes. This can put them off seeking medical advice and dealing with the problem in good time.

LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Bhimbat says,

Many people think that Type 2 diabetes is a direct result of being obese. While obesity (in particular fat around the stomach) increases your risk, this is not the only cause. Genetics, ethnicity and age can all play a role in Type 2 diabetes. For example, people of south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean and black African descent are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

“We should look at the physical and psychological effects of diabetes so we can help patients. We also need to educate the public on living a healthy lifestyle to help them manage the condition after it is diagnosed.”

Managing diabetes with expert advice

Left undiagnosed, diabetes can lead to a number of complications – higher risk of stroke, blindness, heart attack, kidney disease and limb amputation. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you have been diagnosed, facing symptoms head-on can really help with managing the condition.

Make a start today with six simple steps:

  1. Eat a diet high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt
  2. Stress can make symptoms worse so try new ways of managing stress in your day-to-day life
  3. Exercise is a great way to keep weight down. It will also improve your mood and mental health
  4. Watch what you drink – alcohol can dramatically alter blood sugar levels
  5. Diabetes can increase the risk of sleep disorders. Make sure you get plenty of regular, good quality sleep
  6. Always take diabetes medication as prescribed, even if you feel healthy

Anshu Bhimbat says,

Research from LloydsPharmacy suggests that early diagnosis and intervention is a good starting point for living well with diabetes. Know your levels of insulin: are they too high, too low or just right? 9mmol/l and above is too high, 4-7mmol/l is just right and less than 4mmol/l is too low.

“People can also take our online risk assessment – a quick, simple test that will help identify your potential risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – or ask for a free screening in store.”

If you think you may be at risk, it’s essential to act fast and speak to your pharmacist. Choose a good diet, regular exercise and make healthy lifestyle choices – it will all help in the fight against a condition that currently accounts for 65 deaths every day in the UK, and a collective yearly cost to the NHS of £14 billion.

The importance of good foot health with diabetes


Pic: Rex/Shutterstock

Anshu Bhimbat, LloydsPharmacy pharmacist, stresses:

“Around 80% of diabetics can have dry feet, as well as nerve damage and open sores. During the winter we cover up our feet to keep warm and tend to forget about them until summer when the flip flops come out. But it’s important to maintain good foot health all year round.

“People should check their feet regularly, and report any changes in the look or feel of feet to their GP. Our foot check service can also equip people with sound knowledge that will help them care for their feet.”

Top tips for good foot health

  • Check feet every day for hardening skin or signs of colour change
  • Keep feet clean using soap and water and dry them properly, especially between the toes
  • Use an emollient cream – your pharmacist can advise on the best one
  • Talk to your pharmacist about Allpresan diabetic foam cream; it’s safe to use between toes and won’t encourage harmful bacteria to grow
  • Cut nails regularly, but don’t cut them too short
  • Wear good-quality shoes – they should be round-toed and broad-fitting with a low heel
  •  Take advantage of LloydsPharmacy Free Foot Check Advice Service – let our pharmacists help in the quest for improved foot health

Diabetes: 10 fast facts

  1. By 2025, one million people will be living with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes
  2. It is estimated that five million people will have diabetes (Type 1 & Type 2) by 2025
  3. LloydsPharmacy teams have completed over 1.3 million free Type 2 diabetes screening tests over the past decade
  4. Type 2 diabetes commonly appears in people over the age of 40
  5. Over three million people are diagnosed with diabetes (Type 1 & Type 2) every year in the UK and most of the cases are Type 2
  6. Every week there are over 100 amputations due to poorly controlled diabetes
  7. Hypoglycaemia (a hypo) results when blood glucose levels drop too low
  8. Hyperglycaemia (a hyper) occurs when blood glucose levels are too high
  9. Being overweight or obese (a BMI of 25kg/m2 or more) is the main modifiable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes
  10. People living with diabetes should have eight annual health checks: Blood pressure, cholesterol, stop smoking services (if applicable), BMI, foot check, blood glucose, Urine albumin and Serum Creatinine

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Sarah Proctor

I've worked on a variety of regional newspapers and national magazines. My Weekly and Your Best Ever Christmas are fantastic, warm-hearted brands with an amazing, talented team. I'm a sub-editor and particularly love working on cookery, fiction and advice pages - I feel I should know all the secrets of eternal life, health and happiness by now, but hey, we all need that regular reminder!