Diabetes – A Global Threat


By Ryan


Did you know that 347 million people across the world suffer from diabetes? In the UK, the figure is in excess of 3.1 million. By 2030, diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in the world. This global epidemic is affecting health care services across the globe, but what can be done to stop it?



What is diabetes?


Diabetes is a chronic disease that is categorised into two different types: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin produced cannot be effectively used by the body. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce any insulin at all. 90% of those diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.


Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone created by the pancreas, which regulates blood sugar (glucose) levels. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to elevated blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) and serious complications.



Type 1 diabetes


The cause of type 1 diabetes remains unknown and you’ll often hear it referred to as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes most frequently develops before age 40 and it causes the pancreas to produce insufficient levels of insulin. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can include frequent urination, feeling tired, unexplained weight loss and feeling thirsty. Early diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is vital and though there’s no cure, treatment aims to stabilise blood sugar levels. Regular insulin injections are needed and you may need to make changes to your diet.



Type 2 diabetes


It’s estimated that around 850,000 people in the UK have diabetes that has not yet been diagnosed. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is linked to a poor diet, lack of exercise, increased levels of obesity and old age. Making lifestyle changes can help to prevent type 2 diabetes. Symptoms are similar to type 1; feeling thirsty, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss and even blurred vision. It can often be controlled with dietary and lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise. However as the condition progresses, insulin tablets or injections may be needed.



Complications of diabetes


Diabetes can cause serious long-term health problems, which is why early diagnosis and treatment is so vital. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to visual impairment and blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation. Those diagnosed with diabetes are five times more likely to suffer from stroke or heart disease too.



Future treatments for diabetes


Although most people control their diabetes with daily insulin injections, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes is rising. Since the 1920’s, insulin has helped diabetics to control their blood-sugar levels, increasing life expectancy. Yet today, more research into the condition is needed to develop treatments which do not leave patients reliant on daily insulin injections from companies like researchforyou.co.uk.



Islet cell transplants


Since 2005, islet cell transplants have been available on the NHS as a form of diabetes treatment. This type of treatment means ‘islet cells’ from the pancreas, which produce insulin, are taken from a deceased donor and transplanted into the pancreas of a patient diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Whilst this method of treatment is very effective, it is hard to prevent the body from rejecting cells and the new transplanted cells only survive for a few years. Further research into this form of treatment should help to resolve these issues and could see islet cell transplants become more widely available.


Other treatments which are likely to require further research over the next decade include the creation of an artificial pancreas. This could mean an end to type 1 diabetes!



Developing new drugs


It’s important that we continue to develop new drugs for the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In the future, diabetics may only need one injection a week, which could reduce food cravings and encourage the body to produce more insulin. As you can imagine, this type of research requires funding and volunteers; organisations such as MAC Clinical Research recruit volunteers for their diabetes research at convenient clinics across the UK.



Why volunteer?


You might think, “Why volunteer?” when it comes to clinical research. Why not leave others to do the job? By volunteering for clinical research into diabetes, you could play a major role in the development of new treatments which could help future diabetes sufferers experience a better quality of life. Who knows, we may even discover a cure for diabetes! By volunteering your time, you are making a difference in the field of medical research and the good news is that the side effects of any trial or medication are usually mild. Volunteering can also be a great way to raise a bit of extra cash to fund your studies or afford that holiday you have been saving for.



In the future with more research, we may be able to wave goodbye to daily insulin injections, with new drugs and treatments making life better for those diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.


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