One in ten people over 40 in the UK are now living with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. The  figures show that there are 3.8 million people living with a diagnosis of diabetes in the UK, and 90% of those have Type 2. There are almost 1 million more people living with Type 2 diabetes who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed, bringing the total number up to 4.7 million. By 2030 it’s predicted this number will rise to 5.5 million. Around 8% of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes, Type 1, where your pancreas doesn’t work properly and produce insulin and Type 2, where your lifestyle and eating habits have increased your blood sugar to harmful levels.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition where the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly, or your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. This means your blood glucose (sugar) levels keep rising. This means more insulin is released.   Your blood always has some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy to keep you going. However, too much glucose in the blood isn’t good for your health. Glucose comes from the consumption of starch-based foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, chapatis and yams.

If left untreated, high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage parts of your body, including your eyes, heart and feet. These are called the complications of diabetes. But with the right treatment and care, you can live well with type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk of developing them.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent diabetes, however eating healthily and taking regular exercise may help to delay the condition.

Diabetes UK has a risk tool that can help you consider your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Main Symptoms of Diabetes

The main symptoms of diabetes are:

  • being very thirsty
  • needing to urinate more (especially during the night)
  • feeling very hungry or very tired
  • losing weight (without trying to)
  • having blurred vision
  • having sores that heal slowly
  • having dry, itchy skin
  • losing the feeling in your feet, or having tingling in the feet
  • having regular episodes of thrush

Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1  This is where the body is unable to produce any insulin. This type of diabetes typically begins in childhood and through the teenage years. If there is a family history of diabetes, there is a greater chance of developing Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2  This results from a lack of insulin and high blood sugar (glucose) or when the insulin that is there is doesn’t work properly. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and usually affects people over the age of 40 years old. The following groups of people are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes:

  • older people
  • Asian or African Caribbean people
  • people that are overweight
  • people that are not physically active

About 2% of people with diabetes have rarer types of diabetes.

Treatment of Diabetes

Treatment of Type 1 diabetes – Injecting insulin (injections are simple and painless) and eating a sensible diet.

Treatment of Type 2 diabetes – Type 2 diabetes is usually controlled by diet and medication in tablet form.

A healthy diet includes fruit and vegetables, protein and fibre and less sugar, saturated fat and salt. In particular, cut down on sugary fizzy drinks and fruit juice as they will cause your blood sugar to spike and lead to weight gain.

You may be eligible for free NHS prescriptions.  Check on the NHS BSA eligibility checker.

Why you need to take care of your diabetes

It is really important that you manage your diabetes. If not, after many years it can lead to serious problems in your eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums and teeth.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is also possible that you could develop complications in your feet. For information about how to look after your feet, see our section on Healthy feet, or read The Society for Chiropodists and Podiatrists’ advice leaflet Diabetes and your feet.

The most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. When you have diabetes, you are more than twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke. You can reduce this risk by controlling your blood pressure and blood fat levels, and by stopping smoking if you are a smoker. (See our section Giving up smoking for more information on this.)

Local information and advice

Newcastle Diabetes Centre is based at Newcastle General Hospital. The centre provides specialist services for patients with diabetes, by arrangement with their GP. Speak to your GP if you think a referral to the centre would be beneficial for you.

Diabetes UK – Northern has a local Support Group.

Information in other Languages

Diabetes UK provides a wide range of information on diabetes in 20 languages.  This includes their Learning Zone with practical advice on diabetes from the experts, and tips from people who have been there too .  There is also a helpline 0345 124 2399 or [email protected]

Making sense of diabetes technology guides are available from DigiBete in other languages such as Arabic, Bengali, Chinese and Polish.

Other Useful Information

Please note – The content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you are feeling unwell, make an appointment to see your GP or contact NHS 111. In an emergency, dial 999.

Last updated: December 14, 2023