There are 4.7m people in the UK living with diabetes and this number is expected to increase to 5.5m by 2030.
The condition causes raised sugar levels in the bloodstream which can lead to problems like cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage and eye damage among other major health issues.
Saturday 14 November marks World Diabetes Day. This year it focuses on the importance of nurses and the understanding and treatment of the condition.
In support of this we have asked our doctors to explain the different types, how it is evolving and how this condition is covered within critical illness plans.
As most people will know there are two main types of diabetes, which are more likely to affect people at different ages and affect the body in slightly different ways as our doctors explain.
Type one diabetes
Type one diabetes is usually seen in children and young adults.
It is an autoimmune disease, which is where the body’s immune system inappropriately attacks healthy body tissues, in this case the parts of the pancreas that produce a hormone called insulin.
Insulin, keeps the blood sugar levels at healthy levels and also helps the body’s tissues to enter into the cells and use sugar as an energy source. Therefore, this condition is treated through replacing insulin with regular injections.
Type two diabetes
Type two diabetes is more common in adults, although there are increasing numbers of adolescents becoming affected as it is strongly linked with obesity and a diet high in sugar, which is a worsening problem in many countries around the world.
In type two diabetes, the body’s tissues become resistant to insulin.
Therefore, sugar cannot enter the cells to be used as energy and sugar levels build up in the blood stream.
The pancreas initially responds by trying to producing more and more insulin, but in the long run can become “burnt out” and then levels will begin to fall.
In type one diabetes, treatment is usually through tablet medications to control sugar levels, although insulin injections can also be needed in addition at a later stage.
Perhaps less familiar to many however, is that understanding of diabetes is evolving and the classification system for the condition is evolving with it as our doctors explain.
The understanding of diabetes is evolving and splitting the condition into only two distinct forms is not reflecting the diversity that exists in this condition.
It is anticipated that there will be a change in the classification system, or that further subtypes of type one or type two will occur in the future.
Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in adults
As the name suggests, Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood (Lada) is similar to type one diabetes as it is an autoimmune disease, but occurs later in adult life, typically after 35 years of age.