Do you know the signs and symptoms of diabetes?

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This Diabetes Week (8-14 June), the local NHS in Sandwell and West Birmingham is encouraging residents to become aware of the signs and symptoms of this long-term condition.

In the UK, one in 15 of us live with diabetes – that’s 4.8 million people, and it’s likely you know many people with diabetes. Type 2 is the more common form of diabetes, which is where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. Type 1 is where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.

The main symptoms of diabetes can be remembered as the four Ts:

  • Toilet: Going more often, especially at night
  • Thirsty: Being really thirsty and not being able to quench the thirst
  • Tired: Feeling more tired than usual
  • Thinner: Losing weight or looking thinner than usual without trying

Other symptoms can include genital itching or thrush, cuts and wounds taking longer to heal, and blurred vision.

Dr Ian Sykes, local GP and clinical chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Anyone can get diabetes – so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to speak to your GP if you have any concerns.”

There is no such thing as mild diabetes: both types of diabetes are equally serious, and the condition can cause major complications such as strokes and heart disease. New NHS research has found that people living with diabetes face a significantly higher risk of dying from coronavirus (COVID-19), with one third of deaths in England associated with the condition.

Dr Sykes added: “It’s important to know that people with diabetes are no more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else. The majority of people who do get coronavirus – whether they have diabetes or not – will have mild symptoms and do not need to go into hospital. 

“But people with diabetes are more vulnerable to developing a severe illness if they do get coronavirus, and the way it affects people varies. This is why it’s so important to stay alert, practice social distancing, keep on top of your medications and speak to a health professional if you have any concerns.

“The NHS is here for you, and you can chat to your GP or diabetes team via telephone or video consultation.”

Why people get diabetes is complex and not always clear. But some factors can increase your risk of developing it, from genetics and ethnic background to gender, age and lifestyle, including being overweight.

Dr Pete Davies, consultant in diabetes and endocrinology, Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said: “For those at high risk of Type 2 diabetes, it is important they attend their over 40 NHS Health Check to spot early signs of diabetes, or speak to their GP or Practice Nurse.

“People with pre-diabetes should consider a referral to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, a 9-month supported lifestyle intervention (also available online) to achieve a healthy weight, improve nutrition and increase physical activity to reduce their risk.  

“Even though some lockdown restrictions have recently been eased in England, the advice for people with diabetes across the UK is still to stay at home as much as possible and to minimise contact with people outside your household.”

The guidance is to only go out for basic necessities like food and medicine, to exercise, for any medical need or to care for a vulnerable person, and to go to work if you can’t work from home. 

If you do need to go outside for any of these reasons, you should still follow strict social distancing measures. This means keeping two metres apart from other people and washing your hands as soon as you get home. If you are already self-isolating or following the shielding guidance, then continue following those rules.

Diabetes UK has set up a diabetes helpline (0345 123 2399) to advise those who need help with insulin. Patients will also receive additional support from online education services for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to help them to manage their condition better.

USEFUL DIABETES RESOURCES:

https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/coronavirus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX9Faxnvuhg&feature=youtu.be