Living with Diabetes

There are currently more than 3 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK. It is estimated that around 800,000 more have the condition, but don’t know it.

There are a number of types of diabetes, the most common being Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for around 5-15% of those diagnosed, with Type 2 diabetes being the most prevalent and accounting for around 85-95% of people with diabetes in the UK.

Currently, the treatment and care of diabetes and its related conditions accounts for around 10% of the annual NHS spend, approximately £9 billion.

It is reported that around 80% of this cost is attributed to the treatment of associated complications, many of which could be avoided.

* Source references for the above figures available on request

What is diabetes?

In simple terms diabetes prevents your body converting sugars and starches in your food into energy. The body uses insulin to do this. When diabetes is present the body fails to produce insulin or the insulin it does produce doesn’t work properly (insulin resistance).

When we eat food some special cells in our pancreas should produce insulin. The insulin transports glucose, made from carbohydrates in the food, into the cells, where it can be used by the body for energy. Sugars and starches are the most efficient source of food energy and are carried in the blood as glucose.

What are the different types of diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas fails to produce insulin and insulin injections are required for life.

In type 2 diabetes the cause is generally weight related. If you are slim it is likely your body is not producing enough insulin to convert the carbohydrate you eat into energy. You may need tablets and/or insulin to help. If you are overweight it is more likely that insulin resistance is responsible.

Reducing your weight and being physically active will improve your insulin’s activity but you may need medication or insulin to help.

There are other types of diabetes but they are unusual conditions and specialist care should be provided.

Causes of diabetes

The cause of type 1 is unknown but it is thought to be an auto-immune process. In effect the body produces antibodies to the pancreas, damaging it and preventing it producing insulin. Type 1 only affects about 15% of all people with diabetes and it usually starts below the age of 40.

Type 2, however, is more likely to affect older people, although it is being found increasingly in younger people — especially if overweight and lacking in physical activity.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity and tends to run in families. It is more prevalent in South Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. Many people with type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure and cholesterol and you may need tablets to control these too.

What care to expect

At diagnosis you should be given a full explanation of diabetes and a care plan. You should be involved in agreeing goals and targets achievable by you. Take a note of what is agreed. It will come in useful as you see your progress over time. At the very least you should have annual reviews for your diabetes including an explanation of blood tests which, ideally, should be done a week or two prior to the consultation to allow time for the results to be shared with you.

There is a national programme for eye screening for people with diabetes. You should also, as part of your annual health check, have your feet examined and your blood pressure reviewed. Most importantly, you should have an opportunity to discuss your care with your team and agree next steps to protect your health.

The above is an extract from the DRWF Patient Information Leaflet What is Diabetes? v5.1, published September 2015 (reviewed within an 18 month period).


How can we support?

We know that a diagnosis of diabetes, like any long-term condition, can feel devastating and overwhelming.

There will be so many questions that you want to ask; so much information available that you don’t know where to start and this can be a daunting prospect.

We provide authoritative diabetes and related health information, accredited by the Department of Health Information Standard Scheme, to reassure you that this information is relevant, clinically evidenced and up-to-date.

Honesty and reliability are at the top of our list. If you ask us a question and we don’t know the answer, we will endeavour to find it for you or at the very least point you in the right direction of someone who can.

Our annual event programme is designed to provide an opportunity for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, parents and carers, to come together to learn more about the condition and how to manage effectively. We know that there is a great deal to gain by sharing concerns and feelings with appropriate healthcare professionals and other people with diabetes in a relaxed, unhurried and friendly environment.

We have been organising Diabetes Wellness Events for the past 15 years. Many people choose to return year-on-year to refresh their knowledge and understanding in a supportive environment and also to meet up with old friends, make new ones and generally share diabetes and life experiences.

Through our information and support programmes, we aim to create a unique and supportive community of like-minded people, who are focused on successful diabetes self-management.

Health Unlocked diabetes on-line community

Come and join our free online community on HealthUnlocked this forum is an online support and discussion forum for anyone affected by diabetes.

It's a place where you can safely and anonymously share your experience of diabetes with others, ask questions, find out more about diabetes and, most importantly of all, get support.

Before joining please read the Social media and on-line policy document

Our forum is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It’s free to join and register, just visit Our online community



Educational Events

Diabetes Wellness events focus on the key aspects of living life with diabetes in a friendly, informed and supportive environment.

Find out more

Information Leaflets

It’s important to understand the many aspects of diabetes and related health to ensure that you make informed choices about the management of your condition.

Find out more