Are you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

Posted: 27/04/2022

In the UK, 13.6 million people are classed as having a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If warning signs are identified before the onset of the illness, up to 50% of these cases can be prevented or delayed. There are no or very few symptoms associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes, so it is important to regularly check your blood sugar levels.

Book an appointment with a Mayfield Clinic GP who can assess your risk factors and if required test your levels of blood glucose so you can take action quickly.

What causes diabetes?

Diabetes is a result of the body having a resistance to insulin and the pancreas struggling to produce enough. As a result, blood sugar levels will increase, particularly after eating, causing an imbalance in the body.  

On a global scale, there has been a huge rise in the incidence of type 2 diabetes over the past 25 years, with a strong link to rising body mass index (BMI). Since the 1970’s, the average BMI has risen in men from 21.7 to 24.5 and in women from 22 to 25, and worldwide obesity has nearly tripled.  

There is a large group of the population who are classified as having a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is where blood sugars are higher than they should be, but not high enough to be diagnosed. Risk factors in the onset of type 2 diabetes include: 

  • Aged over 40  

  • Are of African or Asian descent 

  • Have a close family member with diabetes 

  • Have high blood pressure 

  • Are overweight, particularly if you carry extra weight around your middle 

  • Have a poor diet high in sugar 

  • Have a sedentary lifestyle 

Many people have type 2 diabetes without realising, as often there are no symptoms and symptoms that do occur may not necessarily make you feel unwell.  

If symptoms do arise, they can include: 

  • Needing the toilet more often, particularly at night 

  • Feeling tired or lethargic 

  • Losing weight without trying 

  • Feeling extremely thirsty 

  • Blurred vision 

  • Cuts and wounds take longer to heal 

  • Genital itching or thrush  

  • Feeling generally ill, uncomfortable or uneasy 

When to see a GP about diabetes?

If you think you may be in the high risk group for developing diabetes you should see a GP to screen for diabetes.  

  • If you are identified as having pre-diabetes, you have the opportunity to make proactive changes to your diet and lifestyle with the aim of preventing or delaying the onset of the illness. 

  • If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you are able to begin the treatment you need. Silent damage can be caused years before symptoms start so the sooner you begin treatment the better. 

If you are displaying symptoms of type 2 diabetes you should see a GP straight away. Untreated diabetes can result in damage to the eyes, nerve damage, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction and serious infections. 

During a GP appointment, your symptoms and concerns are discussed and it’s likely you will have a full medical assessment, a blood test and a urine test. These tests will be assessing your glucose levels, cholesterol, kidney function and liver function. If your results indicate you are diabetic or at a high risk of developing diabetes, treatment options will be discussed with you. Dieticians and specialist diabetic support may be offered to you to help manage your symptoms and you may be referred to see a podiatrist and an ophthalmologist.  

Treating diabetes

Your GP will assess your condition and advise the best treatment plan for you as an individual. The aim of type 2 diabetes treatment is to halt the progression of the disease and intensively manage any complications that have arisen as a result.  

In most cases, you will be given medication to help control your diabetes and keep your blood sugar level as normal as possible to prevent further health problems. As type 2 diabetes can be a life long condition, medication is likely to always be needed in varying doses. 

Lifestyle changes 

Diet and lifestyle changes are necessary to keep your blood sugar down and manage your condition. It is recommended to have a diet full of a variety of foods including fruit, vegetables and starch and to reduce the intake of sugar, fat and salt. It is also important to eat three square meals per day, as skipping meals can alter the balance between food intake and insulin production affecting blood sugar levels.  

Some people are able to put their type 2 diabetes into remission, thereby having healthy blood sugar levels without needing to continue to take any medication. This is mainly achievable through weight loss, lifestyle changes and diet adjustments. It is important to note that even if you are in remission, your blood sugar levels could rise again, putting you back into diabetes range so your health needs to be closely monitored. Regular HbA1c tests to check your blood glucose level can help you track how well you are managing the condition.   

Each individual and case of diabetes is different and will require different treatment plans, so before you make any drastic changes to your diet and lifestyle, speak to a GP. 

Associated conditions 

There are several conditions which can arise following a diagnosis of diabetes which may require treatment. If you are worried you may have diabetes, it is important to visit a GP so they can assess your overall health and treat any other conditions you may have. 

Conditions associated with diabetes include: 

  • Vascular disease 

  • Kidney disease  

  • High blood pressure 

  • High cholesterol 

  • Nerve damage 

  • Eye damage 

  • Skin conditions 

  • Sleep problems  

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