17 June 2022
Diabetes Week – With our Business Development Manager Nick
This week is Diabetes Week; a week dedicated to raising awareness of and encouraging people to share their experiences of living with diabetes. There are more than 4.9 million type 1 diabetics and an estimated 13.6 million people with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the UK1.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way the body regulates blood sugar (glucose). Many sufferers have to use insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. There are three main types of diabetes known as type 1, type 2 and gestational.
Type 1 diabetics don’t produce any insulin in their bodies whereas type 2 diabetics don’t respond to their bodies insulin as well as they should and eventually often don’t make enough themselves. Both types can lead to chronically high blood sugar levels. Type 1 is caused when the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells for foreign cells, this causes the immune system to attack and destroy the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas meaning the body is unable to produce its own insulin. Whereas type 2 is caused by insulin resistance. This means that the body produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively.
The symptoms can include frequent urination, feeling thirsty regularly or drinking a lot, feeling very hungry, being fatigued, and also experiencing blurred vision. These symptoms apply for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes however they do have differing symptoms too which include weight loss (which is more common for those with type 1) and tingling, pain, or numbness in hands/feet (more common in type 2). The way they can often be distinguished is in how the symptoms appear. Symptoms of type 1 develop quickly, typically over the course of a few weeks and is mainly known to develop in childhood or adolescence. Many people with type 2 diabetes won’t have symptoms for many years and they develop slowly over time. Some people with type 2 have no symptoms and don’t discover they have the condition until complications arise.
Diabetes cannot be cured but there are ways to control it, especially for those with type 2. Everyone with type 1 needs insulin, and some will inject using a pump. Those with type 2 may not need to use insulin straight away, but many will need to at some point.
Technology advances have dramatically changed the lives of sufferers, making managing the condition considerably easier. These technologies include continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and insulin pumps. In March 2022 the NHS revealed that everyone living with type 1 diabetes would be eligible for this CGM equipment, enabling easier control over blood sugar levels. Islet cell encapsulation therapy is a newfound therapy which helps to reduce or even eliminate symptoms of type 1 diabetes. “Encapsulated islet cells are specific stem cells that are contained in a protective capsule. The capsule is implanted into the body and the stem cells grow into cells capable of producing insulin and other hormones”2. The idea is to prevent too high or low blood sugar levels from occurring, eliminate the need to take insulin and the need for daily blood sugar tests too. This therapy is still not widely used or available and has years of work before it could be offered out to all type 1 sufferers.
Gestational diabetes is an experience of high blood sugar levels that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears sometime after giving birth. This happens when your body cannot produce enough insulin to meet your bodies extra needs during pregnancy. Symptoms of gestational diabetes include sugar in urine, unusual thirst, frequent urination, nausea and blurred vision.
1 in 10 people over 40 in the UK are now living with a type 2 diagnosis3
Meet Nick, the manager of the Business Development Team who lives with type 1 diabetes. Here is a little bit of his story, and how his daily life is affected by his diabetes diagnosis.
Throughout his working life, Nick has worked many jobs including being a milkman, working at a ski resort, a bank manager for just under ten years, and a manager in car finance for over five years. He has been at Sheffield Mutual for just over two months now and is enjoying his role. When he is not at work, he is an avid Sheffield Wednesday fan, likes to spend time with his family and is also a DJ, which he has been doing for a large portion of his life. He hosts a karaoke night every week and has his own radio show on a Saturday morning!
Nick was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes six years ago when was called up to do an NHS Health Check. The following day after his health check he received a phone call from his doctors asking for him to come into the surgery to see the nurse that day, but was told that he had nothing to worry about. When he arrived, he was told that he had Diabetes and would be sent to see a diabetes specialist. During his appointment at the diabetes specialist, he was told all about his new diagnosis, what this meant for him, and he also learnt his new routines. He was told that his blood sugar levels should be between 5 and 9 mmol/L as a Diabetic however when his blood test was done, his glucose level was above 20 mmol/L.
At the time he was diagnosed he was living a healthy lifestyle and was very fit as he would go running regularly. He said that during this time he would be extremely thirsty, and so would hydrate himself, causing frequent urination. He hadn’t had any second thoughts about this and put it down to the exercise he was doing. These were two symptoms of his diabetes that Nick only realised were symptoms until after his diagnosis.
He has to inject himself with insulin before every meal he eats in order to keep his blood sugar in range. He says that when he goes out to eat at a restaurant, having diabetes can sometimes be a struggle as he may have to wait for his meal to arrive before being able to inject his insulin so he can see the size of what he’s ordered and know how many carbs are in it. If his blood sugar levels drop too low (hypo) he carries round small bags of sweets with him in order to bring them back up. There are many reasons why blood sugar levels can drop too low including heat, exercise, dehydration, too much insulin, postponing meals etc.
A person using Continuous Glucose Monitoring to check their blood sugar level with a phone.
We asked Nick some extra questions to find out more about his experience:
Has your Diabetes ever affected your work?
Other than keeping an eye on my blood sugar levels, no. Different things can affect my levels such as the temperature, exercise and eating regularly. I must make sure I plan to eat if I am going to be in a meeting etc.
What’s the hardest thing about having Diabetes?
For me, I guess it's having to test my levels, work out how many carbs there are in what I'm about to eat and then convert to units and inject before every meal.
What have you learnt from having Diabetes?
Many things. What can affect me? From eating certain foods to exercise, to my environment, how to inject myself and everything around that.
Also, all about the condition itself and that there are two main versions of Diabetes, but also several different variations too.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed?
Not to worry, you can lead a perfectly normal life with the condition as long as you get a good understanding of how to look after yourself, but most of all follow the doctor's advice. It is a long-term condition, but only you can control how it affects you.
How does / has Diabetes related technology affected the management of your Diabetes?
Massively. I have to inject a minimum of five times a day, I also should test my blood sugar reading before every injection as well as if I exercise or feel unwell etc. We now have pre-loaded throw away needles so that makes injecting easer. To test I have a meter that requires a prick of my finger, this often left my fingers sore and difficult to get blood due to scar tissue. I now have a sensor attached to my arm that takes my blood readings all the time and stores it for 8 hours. I download this to an app on my phone with a simple touch. It helps me keep a much better handle on my readings and can actually alert me if I am heading towards a hypo.
What do you think / hope the future looks like for those with Diabetes?
I think there is more understanding of the condition now. It’s a current storyline in one of the soaps so that brings it more into the understanding of people that didn’t really know much about it. The technology has really helped, and also the advancement of medication and health care support etc.
It's not a condition that can be cured, but it's one that I can live a normal life with.
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