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Diabetes and the risks to your health

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In the UK, more than 4.9 million people have diabetes. According to Diabetes UK, this figure could reach 5.5 million by 2030.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which your body causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. There are 2 main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin;

Type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common - in the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2. Around 8% of people with diabetes have type 1 and 2% have more rare forms of the disease.

The Cause of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune condition and little is known about the causes of it, however, it is not caused by poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. Much more is known about type 2 diabetes and there are risk factors such as age, ethnic origin, diet and lifestyle which mean you may be more susceptible. 

The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. When food is digested and enters your bloodstream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it's broken down to produce energy. However, if you have diabetes your body is unable to break down the glucose, either because there is either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or the insulin produced does not act efficiently enough.

Sugar

A key factor with diabetes is sugar. Sugar comes in various forms and includes glucose, fructose, sucrose and lactose. In recent years the Government has imposed a sugar tax, with the aim of reducing the consumption of sugary drinks by imposing the higher prices. Although data indicates that this has reduced the volume of sugary drinks consumed, sugar is a major constituent of so many of the foods we buy, and diabetes continues to affect a large proportion of the population.

The risks for diabetic patients

There are a number of health risks for people who suffer from diabetes.  You are more likely to  develop heart disease because the build-up of excess glucose in the bloodstream damages your arteries. This damage makes it easier for fatty deposits to build up, and if the arteries that carry blood to your heart become clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain it can cause a stroke. 

Patients with diabetes are also more likely to develop vascular dementia due to the damage to blood vessels. Diabetes can affect blood vessels in the eye, leading to problems with your eyesight. Damage may also be caused to the blood vessels in the kidneys, so they are less effective in clearing the toxins from your body. Damage to the nerves can lead to loss of sensation, pain, numbness or tingling in the hands (neuropathy). Men can find that they are troubled by sexual dysfunction and women can find that their sexual organs lose sensation. Diabetes can also cause problems with the circulation to your feet – diabetic foot problems are serious and can lead to amputation of not treated promptly. 

Symptoms and diagnosis of diabetes

There are various symptoms of diabetes but people who have not yet been diagnosed often notice increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, irritability and blurred vision. They may also notice extreme hunger and unexplained weight loss. Doctors can diagnose diabetes with a simple blood test.

Looking after yourself

It is important to get a full and proper diagnosis. If you know that you have diabetes, following advice on diet and medication will, hopefully, help you avoid further health complications. 

Despite treatment, some patients do suffer from the issues described above and it is important to ensure they receive appropriate treatment. 

Susan Prior, partner in Shoosmiths’ Thames Valley office in Reading, says:

“Unfortunately, not all patients receive timely treatment for the complications of diabetes. We have seen very sad cases where clients have suffered cuts or ulcers on their feet which have not been treated in a timely or appropriate manner and this has led to amputation. This can have a devastating effect on their lives. When these clients come to us, we ensure that we assist them in bringing claims that include all the aids and accommodation adaptations that they need to manage their lives on a day to day basis”.


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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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