World Diabetes Day – knows the signs, reduce your risk

World Diabetes Day – knows the signs, reduce your risk

It is estimated that there are 10,000 people in Northern Ireland who have diabetes but don’t know it, in addition to the 88,000 adults living here with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, so the Public Health Agency (PHA) is using World Diabetes Day on 14 November to remind everyone of the importance of ensuring early detection of diabetes and getting treatment to reduce risk of serious complications.

Left untreated, diabetes can cause significant long-term health complications such as heart disease, kidney damage, eye problems affecting vision, and foot problems leading to amputation.

Dr Brid Farrell, Assistant Director of Service Development at the PHA, said: “It’s very important that we know the symptoms of diabetes as early detection can help in preventing the onset of health complications. Symptoms can include increased thirst, passing urine more frequently, bedwetting in children, extreme tiredness, slow-healing infections, blurred vision, and significant or unexplained weight loss.

“These symptoms can develop quickly over days or weeks, and sometimes with type 2 diabetes a person may have no symptoms. Early diagnosis is therefore very important, soif you think you have diabetes speak to your GP or pharmacist.”

There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes, which cannot be prevented, develops when the insulin-producing cells have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin. It generally occurs in children and young adults. Type 1 accounts for approximately 10% of diabetes cases.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly (also known as insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented and accounts for 90% of all diabetes cases.

The increase in number of cases of type 2 diabetes in the population can be explained by rising levels of obesity, people living longer and improved detection and diagnosis of diabetes in primary care.

Dr Farrell continued: “Diabetes is a lifelong condition, but complications can be prevented or delayed by controlling your blood sugar, and treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you have diabetes, a healthy diet and regular exercise are very important. People with diabetes are at risk of an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. Screening can detect this early, before you notice any changes to your vision.

“The onset of type 2 can be prevented or delayed by taking steps to lose weight and improve your fitness. A family history of type 2 can increase your chances of developing diabetes.”

If you are overweight or obese, the key step to preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes is to lose weight through making healthy food choices and being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week. This is particularly important for women who have a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy and who need to pay special attention after their pregnancy to their diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.

For more information on diabetes visit

For more information on the Diabetic Eye Screening Programme visit