Patients urged to find out more about diabetes

Suffolk and North East Essex are just two of the places in the country trying to improve awareness of diabetes.

In this part of East Anglia, around 48,000 people currently live with the condition, which if not managed correctly, can result in serious health complications such as blindness, kidney failure, stroke and loss of limbs.

The campaign aims to help people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes manage their health better. Health chiefs also aim to educate the wider public about how they can help prevent developing Type 2 diabetes in the first place by making modest adjustments to their lifestyles and diets.

According to the charity Diabetes UK, the cost to the nation associated with treating diabetes currently stands at more than £23 billion a year. That figure is expected to almost double over the next 20 years.

Professor Gerry Rayman, senior diabetologist and lead of diabetes research at Ipswich Hospital’s Diabetes Centre, said: “Diabetes is fast becoming the biggest health threat in the UK and can reduce life expectancy. However, if managed correctly, many people can go on to lead happy and independent lives.”

Professor Rayman, who is also an adviser to Diabetes UK and clinical lead in diabetes for NHS Improvement’s national diabetes improvement initiative GIRFT (Getting It Right First Time), advised people with diabetes to undergo regular checks to ensure they are controlling their condition.

He said: “They should monitor their cholesterol, blood pressure and kidney function to ensure they are kept at safe levels to avoid future complications. It is essential that everyone living with diabetes has a chance to learn how they can manage their condition well and how their health care provider can help. All will be revealed to them when they attend one of these essential courses.”

Across the country, there are nationally-recognised courses designed to support people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

The DAFNE (Dose Adjustment For Diabetes) course aims to equip those living with Type 1 diabetes with the skills to count carbohydrates, self-adjust insulin doses and have more confidence in self-managing their condition.

The DESMOND (Diabetes Education for Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed) course is for people living with Type 2 diabetes and covers a range of topics including the nature of diabetes, carbohydrates and fats, goal setting and ways of working towards lifestyle improvements.

Adele Holcombe, specialist dietician and service manager at North East Essex Diabetes Service, said: “Poorly controlled diabetes is a ticking time bomb, but we know that attending structured education can greatly reduce the risk of developing life threatening and debilitating complications which can be personally devastating.

“Although these education courses are readily available, UK figures show that less than 10 per cent of those diagnosed with diabetes attend. The feedback from people who have attended is that they have been extremely worthwhile and very often people tell us they wish they had attended sooner.”

Danielle, who lives in Colchester with Type 1 diabetes, has attended a DAFNE course. She said: “DAFNE exceeded my expectations and I learned far more than I had ever expected. I made a new group of friends who understand the everyday struggles of living with Type 1 diabetes. It was an invaluable experience and I wished I had known it all a lot sooner.”

Julie, from Glemsford in Suffolk, who lives with Type 2 diabetes, attended a DESMOND course after being diagnosed three months ago. She said: “I’ve always had a healthy and balanced diet but many years ago I had to have my gall bladder removed and I developed pancreatitis.

“I was left with a damaged pancreas which is getting more and more sluggish as I grow older and so I have had to be very careful about what I eat. My doctor suggested I attend a one-day DESMOND course which was taking place in Sudbury and said he thought it would help me manage my diabetes – and he was right.

“The people running the course told us about the amount of fat and sugars in a whole host of different foods and it was a real eye-opener to everyone on the course. It was extremely informative and I’d recommend it to anyone with Type 2 diabetes.”

Similar course for people living with diabetes are available all over the country but they may sometimes come under a different name. To find out more about whether one is available in your region, contact your GP surgery or look on the Diabetes UK website.