Those of you who have read one of my previous blogs may remember Sam, an 18yr old boy who came in nervously with his sister as he had been complaining of genital irritation which turned out to be thrush, which is a known presentation of diabetes especially in men.
He had no other symptoms but his urine contained glucose. When I told Sam he had diabetes his reply was, ” Am I going to die?” My reply was “I hope not as that means I am not a very good doctor. However, I suggest that you must not smoke and night’s out with the lads heavy drinking is not for you!” He replied,”Oh that’s good I don’t smoke and I am not fond of drinking I only drink an occasional lager”
I arranged for him to attend the diabetic clinic to be initiated on insulin as he was clearly a Type 1 diabetic.
Sam remains well still in the same job, although thinking of joining the fire service, married with 2 children, fit as a fiddle. Diabetes does not dominate his life, he has never been in hospital,continues taking insulin and sees his doctor every 6 months for regular check ups. That how the majority of diabetics live – they can have a lager or a bar of chocolate occasionally and can become organ donors and he will be assessed on his ability to be a firefighter and will not be turned down because he has diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin.
Who typically gets Type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10 per cent of all adults with diabetes and is treated by daily insulin injections, a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but usually appears before the age of 40, and especially y in childhood. It is the most common type of diabetes found in childhood. Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. The body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells, and nobody quite understands why.
The vast majority of children with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, but an increasing number are now developing Type 2 diabetes.
Notwithstanding, there are those for one reason or another develop complications but for the most part the majority of people like Sam lead a normal life.
The rest of those patients who I picked up with glucose in the urine were older.
I particularly remember Diane, who was a 55yr old teacher very overweight, and admitted she did very little exercise. She had come to surgery feeling tired and stressed but a routine urine showed glucose. I tried to suggest that she lost weight and even suggested Bariatric surgery but she was very negative, claiming she had tried every diet and didn’t have time for exercise. As time went by she was treated for hypertension and needed to have several types of diabetic medication and the diabetes was still not satisfactorily controlled and she was not only was her weight increasing but she was developing angina. Probably dreading hearing the same old advice – diet and exercise and the suggestion of insulin she started not turning up for her appointments. At the beginning or each year we audit our patients to review those that have not been checked and her name appeared and we then ask the receptionists or nurse to phone them to make an appointment. She did make an appointment and her blood tests showed her blood glucose was running very high. When I saw her she said that her job was now becoming so stressful that she was considering early retirement and that she was now prepared to have Bariatric surgery and look seriously at her health. I was thrilled it was worth waiting for that moment. She went on to have surgery and with the support of the multidisciplinary team of dietitian, psychologist and surgeon she became motivated to eat a healthier diet, exercise and gradually as the weeks went by she stopped one medication after another. She was transformed she looked more attractive, she was happier, free from both her diabetic and blood pressure medication and the angina settled. She was now retired and set to enjoy life outside London and as she came to say goodbye she said, “Why hadn’t I done this earlier?”
Who typically gets Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40, though in South Asian people, who are at greater risk, it often appears from the age of 25. It is also increasingly becoming more common in children, adolescents and young people of all ethnicities. Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 85 and 95 per cent of all people with diabetes and is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. In addition to this, medication and/or insulin are often required.
In Type 2 diabetes there is not enough insulin (or the insulin isn’t working properly), so the cells are only partially unlocked and glucose builds up in the blood.
In today’s press:-
More than one in three adults in England are on the cusp of developing type-2 diabetes, new research suggests.
If nothing is done to stop the trend, there will be a steep surge in this form of diabetes within the next few years, the authors of a report published in the British Medical Journal Open said.
People are classed as having borderline diabetes, also known as pre-diabetes, when they have blood glucose levels at the very high end of the ‘normal’ range. Those with the condition are at high risk of developing diabetes and its associated complications.
Their study found that in 2011, the number of people diagnosed with pre-diabetes tripled from 11.6 per cent in 2003 to 35.3 per cent.
We now regularly screen patients not just for urine glucose but for blood glucose in an attempt to prevent the onset of diabetes.
It is now reported that 80% of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by diet and exercise alone
As I reflected it made me realise the enormous strides that have been made in medicine since I have been qualified regarding diabetes, firstly being able to diagnose it so easily with a simple dipstick and more accurate blood tests to recognise pre-diabetes as well as having the proven knowledge that leading a healthy lifestyle can prevent the onset. However, sadly many people don’t take heed of this and don’t eat healthily and live a life of a couch potato running a great risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
I remember my first job as a surgical house officer there were always some patients on the ward with chronic leg ulcers, and those who had poor lower limb circulation both as a result of diabetes and who were on the surgical ward and inevitably ended up having an amputation. Many of these patients also had poor eyesight due to cataracts or diabetic retinal damage, others had had heart attacks or strokes and it was a concern whether they would able to cope with anaesthetic and had to have the surgery with a spinal block. Most of these diabetics went on to develop kidney failure but were considered unsuitable candidates for renal dialysis because of there array of other complications. They had to have peritoneal dialysis – a cumbersome way of ridding the body of liquid waste. It involved pouring large volumes of fluid into the abdomen and then flushing the fluid out. When I was a GP visiting these patients, who were discharged home for it to be carried out by the District nurse on a regular basis, sometimes daily, I remember having to squeeze past these piled up boxes in the hallway. There prognosis was poor and they often developed severe infections or went into end-stage kidney failure and died at in there 50’s. Hence, it is not surprising that many people fear this condition and feel it will alter their life.
Diets at that time consisted of large amounts of fat and sugar: the day started with a greasy cooked breakfast, puddings were a must and afternoon tea was accompanied by a selection of home-made cakes. Although exercise was part of a daily routine the television began to limit how much people did and more people bought cars, public transport improved but everyone continued with the same diet.
In 2001 Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP),a large trial was carried which was scheduled to last 4years comparing a group of people who were supervised strictly to adhere to exercise and a healthy diet and a group who were not educated but the trial had to be abandoned after 3 years because it was so clear that a highly significant number were developing diabetes in the non-educated group and it was considered non-ethical not to educate everybody.
Participants randomly assigned to intensive lifestyle intervention reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. On average, this group maintained their physical activity at 30 minutes per day, usually with walking or other moderate intensity exercise, and lost 5-7 percent of their body weight.
It is reported that 80% of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by diet and exercise alone
You can check your risk of developing diabetes by clicking on the link below:-
It is possible to delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes by lifestyle intervention.
Before you develop symptoms:-