I’ve been looking at some of the questions that you’ve been posting on our website and it seems a lot of you are interested in diabetes. There’s a lot of confusion out there as to what the symptoms are and I’m glad you’re asking because, in fact, there are three quarters of a million people in the UK who have diabetes and don’t know.
Let me start by explaining the difference between the two types of diabetes. Type one diabetes is what we call an auto-immune condition, it’s where your own body fights against your pancreas and stops you from producing insulin that you need. It’s the less common form and it usually presents in younger people, it may make you feel very thirsty, you might find you feel very tired and that you are going to the loo a lot, weeing a lot and that you lose weight. The much more common type two diabetes may have no symptoms what so ever. We used to call it maturity onset diabetes because it tended to happen in people over 40 and they were putting on weight. Sadly, as we are becoming a bigger country, we’re getting fatter. We are seeing type two diabetes in much younger people and you may not know that you have any symptoms what so ever.
So I am going to start here with a question from somebody who’s 14 and feels constantly tired and is very thirsty. Now, of course, tiredness is a very common symptom but I think the thirst would raise alarm bells for me and I think you should go and see your GP and they will almost certainly want to dip test your urine and maybe arrange a blood test to check your sugar level.
And I am going to go onto a question from somebody here who is craving sugar all the time, could you be diabetic? Actually, no, but it’s a very common question. It’s something I get asked a lot in surgery and it’s a common theme here on the website. Diabetics, actually, untreated or undiagnosed diabetics, have a high sugar level not a low sugar level, so craving sugary foods is not a sign of diabetes.
And another question from somebody who says you’re very overweight, could this be due to diabetes? Not really, actually, it’s the other way round. If you are putting on a lot of weight you are more likely to develop diabetes. It’s not that being diabetic makes you gain weight. There are some treatments for diabetes; insulin for example can mean that you gain weight. But generally speaking, it is weight gain that causes diabetes, not the other way round.
And we’re getting a lot of questions about erection problems and could those be linked to diabetes. The answer is absolutely yes and in fact if you start to develop problems getting an erection it’s very important that you get checked out by your GP. It could be the early sign of vascular disease and it’s very important you get your blood pressure checked, you get checked for diabetes and that you find out what your cholesterol is.
And another question from a gentleman who says he knows he’s diabetic and has noticed his penis is starting to bend up, could that be linked? Yes it could be. It’s very normal for there to be a slight curvature in the erect penis but a pronounced curve could be a sign of a condition called Peyronie’s disease and being diabetic can put you at increased risk of Peyronie’s.
And lots of questions about thrush and recurrent thrush. Diabetics tend to run slightly higher blood sugars, and what that means is that the fungus that causes thrush can thrive. In fact, if I see somebody in surgery who is getting recurrent attacks of thrush I would always check them as, sometimes that can be the only symptom of diabetes. If you’re diabetic and you’re suffering with recurrent thrush it’s almost certainly because your blood sugars are running a little too high so it’s important that you chat either with your practice nurse or your GP because it’s probably time that we adjust your medication.
If you’re worried that you may have symptoms of diabetes then why not take our simple diabetes test on My HealthChecker and if you are still concerned go and see your GP.
Doctor Responses: Diabetes
We’ve scoured the Embarrassing Bodies website and put your most popular questions about coping with diabetes to Dr Dawn, so you can benefit from her medical expertise.
The majority of questions were taken from our diabetes condition guide.
If you’re worried that you have symptoms that could indicate diabetes then why not take the diabetes test within My HealthChecker.
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Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.