It's almost time for World Diabetes Day, an annual event that raises awareness of the health risks associated with diabetes and its treatment options.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood-sugar levels to become too high.
In 1923, Frederick Banting and John Macleod were awarded a Nobel Prize for developing insulin, a medication that has since saved millions of lives worldwide.
But there is still a long way to go to help manage people's symptoms and save lives.
There are two main types of the condition:
Type 1 diabetes: The body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
Type 2 diabetes: The body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90 per cent of all adults with diabetes have type 2.
In addition, many people in the UK have blood-sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classed as diabetes. This is known as pre-diabetes.
For a condition that affects nearly four million people in the UK, here’s a look at World Diabetes Day, why it’s important, and how you can support it.
When is World Diabetes Day?
World Diabetes Day is the biggest diabetes awareness campaign in the world, reaching more than 160 countries and more than 1 billion people worldwide.
World Diabetes Day falls on November 14 and is organised by Diabetes UK, to raise awareness of the condition and support those living with it.
The goals of the charity are to make sure everyone knows the signs to look out for and is aware of the risk of developing type 2.
The worldwide emblem for diabetes awareness is the blue circle. It represents the solidarity of the worldwide diabetes community in the face of the diabetes pandemic.
The World Diabetes Day campaign has a designated topic that is promoted for one or more years every year. "Access to Diabetes Care" is the theme for World Diabetes Day (2021–2023).
How to support World Diabetes Day
It's up to you how you choose to contribute; options include fundraising, volunteering, and making a donation or bequest in your will.
To raise awareness, you can also share the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes. If type 1 diabetes is left undiagnosed, it can make people seriously ill rapidly.
Knowing the signs early on could avoid a medical emergency and save lives, so Diabetes UK is asking people to share social-media posts, with the hashtag #RewriteTheStory, highlighting early symptoms, such as:
Feeling very thirsty
Urinating more frequently than usual, particularly at night
Weight loss and loss of muscle
Itching around the genitals, or frequent episodes of thrush
Cuts or wounds that heal slowly
You can also take on the #NailingDiabetes challenge by painting your nails blue on November 14, to raise awareness.
Diabetes UK is also partnering with Tesco to inspire as many people as possible to find out their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The online shop has a range of items, from T-shirts to posters and Diabetes UK blue nail varnish, all raising money for the charity and supporting those with diabetes.
Can type 2 diabetes become type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes tends to start in early childhood, while type 2 diabetes often takes years to develop. However, some people may be misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes, when they have another condition.
Type 2 diabetes cannot turn into type 1, since the two conditions have different causes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks and destroys the islet beta cells in the pancreas - which are responsible for creating insulin.
Symptoms may not appear for months or years and, if a doctor diagnoses you with type 1 diabetes, it means that your pancreas is no longer producing insulin, or that it’s producing a very small amount.
Type 1 diabetes can’t be caused by type so, if you have type 2, your pancreas still produces insulin, but the cells in your body don’t respond to it and don’t use it efficiently.
This causes the pancreas to produce even more insulin and typically results in high blood sugar.