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In this Health Hub article, we explore the different types of diabetes and how they are diagnosed.

Diabetes


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Diabetes

Diabetes in Ireland

In this Health Hub article, we explore the different types of diabetes and how they are diagnosed.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes (also called Diabetes Mellitus) is a general term used to describe conditions where your body has too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. There is sugar in foods and drinks that we ingest every day. Normally, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to take all of this sugar and break it down so it can be absorbed into the body’s cells for energy. Insulin levels should rise whenever we eat and fall again when we’re not eating. In diabetes, there is a fault with insulin production and/or sugar absorption.

There are 3 main types of Diabetes:

  • Type 1 (10-15% of cases)
  • Type 2 (85-90% of cases)
  • Gestational

Type 1 diabetes is where the pancreas does not produce any insulin naturally. Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin injections.

Type 2 diabetes is where the body becomes resistant to insulin. The pancreas is still producing some insulin but it it doesn’t work as well. Cells also find it more difficult to absorb glucose. In some cases, type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise, but often requires oral medicines.

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnancy.


Facts & Figures

Is is estimated that close to 250,000 people in Ireland have diabetes but only half of those are aware they have it.

Type 2 diabetes is the more common form (85-90%) of cases.

Random glucose level of 11.1 mmol/L can indicate diabetes.

250,000 

People in Ireland have Diabetes

85% 

Type 2 most common at 85%

11.1 

Blood sugar suggests diabetes


Symptoms

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Itchiness around genitals
  • Recurrent thrush

Blood Sugar

Blood sugar is tested using a simple finger prick test. A drop of blood is placed on a test strip and inserted into a glucometer which reads the amount of glucose or sugar in your blood. Levels are measured in a unit called "mmol/L" in Ireland. In the US, levels are measured in "mg/dL" which may confuse you if you read US levels!

Normal

6.0

Pre-Diabetes

7.8

Diabetes

11.1

How do I get diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is classed as an autoimmune disease. This means that your body attacks its own cells. In type 1 diabetes, your body attacks the cells in your pancreas that make insulin destroying them. It is unclear what causes type 1 diabetes but risk factors include family history and other autoimmune conditions.

Type 2 diabetes is most commonly a result of poor diet (particularly sugary foods) and being overweight in your 20s and 30s. Excessive sugar and fat results in your body becoming resistant to insulin leading to to type 2 diabetes.


How is Diabetes Treated?

Treatment depends on the type of diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes is where the pancreas does not produce any insulin naturally. Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin injections. Usually, people use 2 different insulins: one to release insulin slowly over 24 hours, and the other to release insulin quickly at meal times.

Type 2 diabetes is where the body becomes resistant to insulin. The pancreas is still producing some insulin but it it doesn’t work as well. Cells also find it more difficult to absorb glucose. In some cases, type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise, but often requires oral medicines.


Advice From The Pharmacist

Prevention of Type 2:

Take 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week and restrict sugary foods and drink. Aim for low GI (Glycaemic Index) foods, as they release sugar slowly. Examples are sweet potato, apples, peppers, carrots, sweet corn, pears, grapes and plums.

Checkups:

If you have diabetes, regular checkups are very important with:

  • Dentist – gum disease is common in diabetes
  • Optician – diabetes can damage eyesight
  • Podiatrist – nerve damage to feet can mean you don’t notice cuts to your feet.

Blood sugars:

  • Check your blood sugar a few times per day.
  • Always carry glucose gel or lucozade sweets in case your sugars go very low (hypo).

Long Term Illness Scheme:

In Ireland, Diabetes comes under the Long Term Illness Scheme. This means that medicines to treat diabetes and test strips/lancets are free of charge (other medicines e.g. stomach tablets will not be covered and you must pay for them separately).

Make sure you ask your GP to register you under the Long Term Illness Scheme.

You will be issued with a 6 digit LTI number and a prescription book once your application is processed by the HSE.

You can present your LTI book of prescriptions at any pharmacy in Ireland.

Glucometers:

If your monitor stops working, contact your pharmacy for a replacement, These are usually provided free of charge by the pharmaceutical companies in Ireland.


Supports Available in Ireland


References

Shane O'Sullivan
Shane is Managing Director of Healthwave and studied pharmacy at UCC.