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Diabetes Awareness Month

Monday, 16 February 2009

With a predicted increase in diabetes in Ireland, it is very important to raise awareness of diabetes. If a diagnosis is made early then it's easier to manage diabetes in the long term.

There are currently 200,000 people with diabetes in Ireland and at least 50,000 of those are undiagnosed. There are a further 100,000 people with pre-diabetes, many of whom will develop diabetes in the next 5-10 years.

This month sees a new awareness campaign taking place for Diabetes Ireland. Their "Tea for Diabetes" campaign is aimed at raising awareness about diabetes, its symptoms and risk factors plus the benefits of leading a healthier lifestyle (diet and exercise) among their family, friends and work colleagues over a cup of tea during the month of February.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes Mellitus, or just diabetes as it is more commonly known, occurs when the sugar, (glucose) level in the blood is too high. This happens when the body is not burning up carbohydrates properly due to a defect in the pancreas, the gland that produces insulin. Insulin is the hormone which keeps blood sugar levels within the normal healthy range. Diabetes may be present either when no insulin is made or when insulin is made but not working properly.

There are two types of diabetes .
Type 1, formally known as insulin dependent diabetes, which usually occurs before the age of 35. A person with type 1 diabetes makes no insulin and therefore needs to inject insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and remain healthy.

Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes) more commonly occurs in adults after the age of 40 and is extremely common in old age. In this case, the person with diabetes makes some insulin. Usually associated with being overweight, this condition responds well to weight loss through dietary regulation. Sometimes weight loss is not enough and tablets are required to help the person's own insulin to work or additional insulin may be required. This type of diabetes is also known as adult-onset or maturity-onset diabetes.

With an average of seven years between onset and diagnosis, the earlier the condition is detected the easier it will be to manage. Early detection gives the ability to protect against heart attack, stroke and vision loss which is due to high blood sugar levels over years.

Symptoms of Diabetes
Symptoms of diabetes vary in intensitiy but may include:
. Lack of energy
. Tiredness
. Excessive thirst
. Frequent passing of urine
. Weight loss - in the region of 7-14 pounds
. Blurring of vision
. Recurrent infection

Diabetes is detected by a simple blood test that detects how much glucose is in the blood. The onset of type 2 diabetes is gradual and therefore hard to detect. Some people have few early symptoms and are only diagnosed several years (3 - 12 years) after the onset of the condition and in half of these cases various complications are already present.

Type 1 Diabetes (John has this) - Estimated 14,240 people live with this in Ireland

Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent diabetes) is a lifelong condition caused by lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone - a substance of vital importance that is made by your body. Without insulin your body can't make proper use of the food you eat. This causes your blood glucose - or blood sugar as people with diabetes often call it - to rise too high.

What causes type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's natural defence system against viruses and bacteria starts to destroy the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. (the body produces blood cells to combat the virus which may then attack the insulin creating cells in the pancreas) No one knows exactly what causes this to happen. We know that members of some families are more likely to get diabetes than others. We also know that some external influence must be present. How all these factors interact is not known.

What happens when you have diabetes?
Insulin acts like a key. But now that you have diabetes, you can't produce enough of those keys to open the doors into your cells. When sugar can't get into your muscle and other cells to produce energy, you feel tired, and if the sugar can't get into the cells to be used, it builds up in the bloodstream. When you first got diabetes, your blood sugar level went high.

Why do you urinate so much?
Urine forms in the kidneys when the blood is filtered. Without enough insulin, the amount of sugar in your bloodstream rises to very high levels. When that happens, some sugar spills through the kidneys into the urine. The sugar that spills into the urine carries a lot of water along with it. That makes you very thirsty. You drink a lot and urinate frequently.

About Ketones (Possible complication)
Without enough insulin, your body can't use sugar, so it will try to burn fat for fuel. When your liver burns fat too quickly, it produces poisonous waste products called ketones. Ketones are dangerous because they make the blood acidic. When ketones reach your kidneys, some flow out in the urine together with sugar.

If not treated with insulin, you'll develop a serious condition called ketoacidosis. You'll feel sick and probably get stomach aches and vomit. Your cheeks will flush and you may lose consciousness. This could lead to diabetic coma. It requires immediate treatment with insulin and fluid.

What you have to do when you have diabetes
To keep your blood sugar under control, now that you have diabetes, YOU have to do what your body once did automatically. The goal is to mimic the insulin pattern you had before you got diabetes and to keep the blood sugar level as near normal as possible.

Diabetes treatment
You'll need insulin injections every day - probably twice or more. Healthy eating is important. Make sure you eat three proper meals and three snacks a day if instructed. Don't forget to exercise regularly. You'll also need to learn about diabetes, how to test your blood sugar and how to react appropriately to your blood sugar readings.

Long term complications
After years of living with diabetes, some people may develop certain characteristic problems with their eyes, kidneys, nerves and feet. Susceptibility to heart disease and high blood pressure is also increased. To help prevent these complications, it is important to keep your blood sugar as close as possible to the level of people without diabetes.

What causes Type 2 diabetes?
- Estimated 129,052 people live with this in Ireland

Type 2 diabetes (formally called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, or NIDDM) develops when the beta-cells in the pancreas start to become inefficient and produce too little insulin for the body's needs. This inadequacy is most pronounced after eating. In addition, the cells in the body may become less responsive to insulin. In this case, even though you may still be making some insulin, it cannot do its job properly.

Who is at risk of getting Type 2 diabetes?
The causes of Type 2 diabetes may differ from one patient to another. In most cases, the cause is unclear, but a few cases can be attributed to specific genetic defects.

Risk factors of Type 2 Diabetes
Some people are more at risk of developing diabetes than others. The known risk factors include:
. A family history of diabetes
. Being overweight (80% of people with diabetes are overweight)
. Age (the likelihood of developing diabetes increases with age)
. Lack of physical exercise
. Having had diabetes during pregnancy or having had a large baby

Treating type 2 diabetes
To keep your blood sugar under control, you must now do what your body once did automatically. The goal is to mimic the insulin pattern you had before you got diabetes and to keep the blood sugar level as near normal as possible. You may be able to make better use of the insulin that your body does still produce by improving your diet and eating times, and by exercising and losing weight if you need to. If these measures are not successful you can take medicines that increase your body's insulin production or your sensitivity to insulin. If they are not effective, or if your body is under stress, including illness, you may require insulin injections.


About T4DI (tea for Diabetes Ireland)
T4DI is seeking the co-operation of individuals, groups and organisations in hosting a tea break in places like their home, club, church hall, or workplace, whenever it suits them in February. Individuals and groups who sign up to the event will receive an organiser's pack with;

. Materials to help promote their event
. Fact sheets on diabetes
. Healthy eating and physical activity tips
Ideas on how to have fun and raise funds

Symptoms of Diabetes:
. Lack of energy
. Tiredness
. Excessive thirst
. Frequent passing of urine
. Weight loss
. Blurring of vision
. Recurrent infection / 1850909909