Five things you didn't know about Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common health conditions in the UK, with 3.9 million people living with the disease. Of these cases, 90 percent involve type two diabetes. Yet despite this, diabetes is still one of our most misunderstood conditions.

Here are five things you might not have known about this growing condition.

1. Diabetes isn’t just a western condition

Diabetes may be largely associated with countries like the UK and America, but it isn’t just a western condition. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that 350 million people suffer from diabetes across the world. Incidences in Brazil are rapidly on the rise, while India is thought to have the most diabetic citizens of any country in the world.

2. It doesn’t just affect overweight people

Type two diabetes, in particular, is largely considered a condition of overindulgence, but this isn’t always the case. People of an average weight and with a healthy diet can suffer too, due to factors such as:

  • Stress: this heightens cortisol production, which increases the amount of sugar in the blood. This can result in conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome which can cause diabetes.
  • Genetics: sufferers may inherit specific genes that affect the way the body handles excess fat. Having a close relative who is a sufferer can increase your risk of diabetes.
  • Ethnicity: diabetes can affect different ethnic groups in different ways. For example, it can be more likely to affect people of South Asian descent or African-Caribbean people.
  • Age: whilst diabetes is historically more common in white people over 40, it is now becoming more common in younger people from different ethnic backgrounds.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and TOFI (thin on the outside, fat inside). The latter occurs when fat is stored in your abdominal organs, rather than under your skin.
  • A natural resistance to insulin, caused by a defect where sufferers aren’t able to burn glucose or fatty acids effectively.

3. Type two diabetes can be symptomless

Experts believe that many cases of diabetes remain undiagnosed. This is simply because diabetes can be symptomless, with type two diabetes, in particular, creeping up on sufferers. Even when people do experience symptoms, they can seem distractingly general:

  • Feeling very thirsty.
  • Urinating more frequently than usual, especially during the night.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Weight loss and depleting muscle bulk.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Frequent episodes of thrush
  • Cuts or wounds that heal slowly.

4. Diabetes can cause blindness

While many people are aware that type two diabetes can cause painful foot ulcers and damage nerves, they may not know that it can cause blindness. In fact, diabetes is cited as one of the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. As a result, everybody in the UK with diabetes should be offered an eye screening for diabetic retinopathy annually.

5. Meal plans needn’t be boring

When so many foods apparently harbour the potential to adversely affect the blood sugar, it’s widely thought that if you suffer from diabetes, your diet needs to be strictly monitored. On the contrary, a meal plan for somebody with diabetes is similar to that of somebody without it. You should aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet – ensuring you eat regularly, make healthy choices and include a wide range of foods in your diet. Reducing fat, salt and sugar and increasing fibre can also help. Diabetes UK has some great recipes on their website for you to try out.


This article was first published on 14th April 2016.