ABOUT three million people in the UK have had diabetes diagnosed, and it’s believed that figures could reach five million by 2025.

Type 1 diabetes, believed to be an autoimmune disease with possible genetic factors, can occur at any age but most often starts in late childhood.

With this type, the body destroys its own insulin-producing cells, so people have to inject insulin daily in order to regulate their blood sugar levels.

Symptoms include feeling extremely thirsty, frequent need to urinate, excessive tiredness, frequent skin infections and unexplained weight loss.

Type 2 diabetes is far more common, making up 90 per cent of all cases.

It’s Type 2 which is linked to lifestyle, with being overweight or obese the biggest risk factor.It mostly affects over-40s and the elderly, though in people of black or South Asian origin, known to be at higher risk, it can occur in people as young as 25.

Symptoms are similar to Type 1, though weight loss isn’t usually seen. However, unlike Type 1, the signs can progress slowly over time and it’s believed there are thousands of people with Type 2 currently undiagnosed.

Healthy diet and lifestyle are crucial for controlling it, but medication may also be required.

It’s a myth that Type 2 is a “less serious” form of diabetes. Both types can lead to devastating complications, including blindness, amputation and kidney failure.

The NHS spends £10 billion (10 per cent of its entire budget) on treating diabetes, 80 per cent of which goes on treating complications.

The good news is that these can be avoided, providing people manage their condition well and have regular check-ups to spot the early warning signs of problems.

Here, three people share their advice.


Pav Kalsi is a clinical adviser for the charity Diabetes UK.

Thousands of children in the UK have Type 1 diabetes. Getting to grips with the regular blood sugar checks and insulin injections can be a huge challenge.

“Diabetes can be a worrying time for both the parent and the child,”

said Kalsi. “It’s completely normal to feel anxious or worried, but it isn’t the end of the world.

“Tell your child’s healthcare team about your fears – they may be able to put your mind at rest,” she said.

“Talk problems through with your family and try to reach solutions together.If you have other children, try to involve them, too.

“The first few injections will probably be a bit uncomfortable, as you will both be tense and anxious.

But as your confidence grows, it will become easier.

“Remember that even when your child is competent in doing the injection, they may not want the responsibility all the time, so be prepared to do them yourself.

“Concerns about leaving your child with someone else are understandable.

“It’s natural for your child not to want to miss out on school activities or sleepovers with friends, and diabetes shouldn’t stop them, it just requires a little more planning.

“Talk to teachers and other parents and make them aware.

Make sure they have a phone number for you and ensure your child has everything they need.”

The charity offers a wealth of support and information for parents, and their website has a great kids’ section.

For more information and support, call the Diabetes UK Careline on 0845 1202960 or visit diabetes.org.uk.


Alison Freemantle is a pharmacist at Lloyds Pharmacy, which offers free Type 2 screening services in more than 1,500 UK pharmacies.

Over the last 10 years, Lloyds Pharmacy has screened more than 1.5 million people for Type 2 diabetes. They also offer advice services.

“Often people come to us and say, ‘I’ve been told I have diabetes, now what do I do?’” said Freemantle.

“Diet is usually a first concern.

Many think they’re not allowed any sugar but that’s not really the case; there are sugars in lots of healthy foods.

“Everybody who’s diagnosed should see a dietician but that can take a few weeks.It’s really about eating a healthy, balanced diet, like we all should. But it’s important people understand how food is going to affect them.

“It’s about understanding and taking responsibility for your condition.

“You might see your GP once or twice a year but you live with it day in, day out, 365 days a year.

“A big problem with Type 2 is people running out of medicines, or not taking them, particularly older people who might have quite a lot to take – for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol etc. This can be confusing and some tablets might be difficult to swallow, or cause side-effects, or people might think it won’t do them any harm to miss some.

“But that’s where problems start to crop up.”

Medicine check-ups are included in the advice services.

“If you’ve actually got the packets in front of you it’s easier to explain what they’re all for. Understanding the medication makes managing it easier.”

Being aware of potential complications is important, too, particularly foot problems.

The pharmacy is launching a special foot check advice service.

If ulcers aren’t treated quickly they can eventually lead to amputation.

Eye health is another potential complication area, as is high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Thorough annual health checks are a vital part of management for everybody with diabetes.

For more information, visit lloydspharmacy.com.


Stephen Clancy is an Irish cyclist with Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetic pro-cycling team.

For teenagers told they have Type 1 diabetes, it can feel like your life’s been turned upside down.

This is how Clancy felt when he had the illness diagnosed last year aged 19.

But now, 14 months on, he’s in control of the condition and says it’s changed his life for the better, and he hopes to inspire others.

“I’ve loved cycling since I was young and competed in my first race at 16,” he said. “Being told i had Type 1 was a huge shock.I assumed diabetes affected people who ate too much sugar, not people like me.I thought, ‘That can’t be right, why me?’I already ate healthily and I don’t drink or smoke, so I thought it was unfair.”

Clancy was terrified it would mean an end to his cycling.

But now he’s cycling more than ever and believes it plays a crucial part in helping him manage his diabetes – both physically and mentally.

Clancy’s a member of Team Novo Nordisk, made up solely of athletes with Type 1 diabetes, which was set up to inspire and raise awareness of the benefits and importance of sports in diabetes management.

Clancy did cut down on cycling initially. “When I was first getting to grips with managing my sugar levels,I was worried what would happen ifI was out cycling alone and my sugar levels dipped too low,” he said.

Having to stop and take his blood sugar readings every 20 minutes made getting back into training difficult, but these days that’s not a problem.

“When you’re exercising, your muscles are using that glucose and sugar that you take on board in your meals,” says Clancy.

“Everyone is different but for me, as I exercise, it means I don’t need as much insulin with the meal beforehand, or with the meal afterwards. And my insulin will work better ifI exercise, so for me it’s a very positive thing.”

Now 20, his teenage hobby has become his profession and Clancy competes all over the world.

“I’d advise anybody who’s coming to terms with diabetes not to get bogged down if you have a bad day; it’s not an exact science.

“Even the guys who’ve had it for 20 years are still adapting and figuring things out. All you can do is try your best.It takes a while but you can get it under control.

“And, though it won’t be pro-cycling for everyone, any exercise helps. Build up slowly and see what impact it has.”

For more information, visit teamnovonordisk.com.