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Diabetes is a very common medical condition affecting over 2.9 million people in the UK alone. Our convenient and safe online doctor & pharmacy service offers metformin tablets 500mg and 850mg for type 2 diabetes to help control gluc

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition in which your the level of glucose in the blood, also known as the blood sugar level, is too high.

What causes diabetes?

The body’s glucose levels are controlled by the hormone insulin, which is made in the pancreas. Glucose from food is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream where insulin is responsible for moving it into cells where it can be broken down into energy. Diabetes is caused either by the body not producing enough insulin, or by insulin failing to work properly. As a result, the movement of glucose to the cells in hindered and blood glucose levels become too high.

What are the different types of diabetes?

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood and refers to a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin.Type 2 occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or when the body’s cells fail to react to insulin. Type 2 diabetes tends to develop later in life and is closely associated with obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

A third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which sometimes develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth. Gestational diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet the extra needs during pregnancy.  

What causes gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women, usually during the second half of pregnancy. It occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to transfer glucose while the body is under the additional strain of pregnancy. It can be experienced by any woman during pregnancy, although you are at a higher risk if:

  • Your BMI is higher than 30
  • You have previously had a baby who weighed more than 10lbs ats birth
  • You have experienced gestational diabetes during an earlier pregnancy
  • One of your parents or siblings has diabetes
  • You have South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern family origins.

Symptoms

What are the first signs of diabetes?

It is recommended that adults who are over the age of 45, or have other risk factors of diabetes, go for regular screening appointments. If the condition is spotted early, it is much easier to manage and the risk of more serious complications can be greatly reduced. If you are at risk of developing diabetes, there are a few early signs of diabetes you should look out for, including:

  • Nausea
  • Weakness and hunger
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating more frequently than usual
  • Abdominal pain
  • Breathing faster and more deeply than usual
  • Sweat breath that smells like nail polish remover, which is a sign of high ketones

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Symptoms of diabetes are usually a result of your blood sugar levels being too high. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often appear rapidly and are usually the primary indicator of the condition. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can take time to develop and may go unnoticed for some time. Symptoms include:

  • Hunger and fatigue. If the glucose in your blood is not being transported to your cells, your boy will lack energy causing you to feel tired and more hungry than usual.
  • Frequent urination. The body absorbs glucose when it passes through the kidneys, but if glucose levels are high, the kidneys are unable to absorb it all. As a result, the body produces more urine, which required more fluid, causing you to feel thirstier than usual.
  • Dry mouth and skin. Dehydration can also cause your mouth and skin to feel dry and sometimes itchy. 
  • Blurred vision. The change in fluid levels may also cause irritation to the lenses in your eyes, which can affect your vision.
  • Yeast infections. Yeast flourishes on glucose and can grow in any warm or moist area of the body when glucose levels are high.
  • Slow-healing sores. High blood sugar affects your blood flow if left untreated for some time, and can result in nerve damage which makes it harder for your body to heal itself. This can also result in pain or numbness in your feet or legs.

Type 1 diabetes also has symptoms such as unplanned weight loss, and nausea or vomiting. When your body it struggling to get energy from your food, it resorts instead to burning muscle and fat. As a byproduct of this process, the body produces ketones, which can make you feel nauseous and become life-threatening if left to build up.  

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often sudden and are themselves the cause for diagnosis. However, symptoms of type 2 diabetes can appear gradually and can be confirmed as indicative of diabetes following a blood test. Certain people are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and should receive regular screening. The following people are recommended to receive regular screening:

  • Those with a BMI higher than 25
  • Those over the age of 45
  • Women who have experienced gestational diabetes in the past
  • Those who have been diagnosed with prediabetes

Prediabetes is the diagnosis given to those whose blood sugar levels are above the normal range, but are not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. The risk of developing diabetes at this stage is greatly increased.  

Treatment

Can diabetes be cured?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured.  It can go into ‘remission’ meaning that it is undetectable despite the disease still being present. However, with the correct lifestyle changes and treatment, diabetes can be successfully managed.

How is diabetes treated?

The primary treatment for diabetes is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You will need to tailor your diet to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and wholegrains, and cut down on refined carbohydrates, sugars and saturated fats. It can be difficult knowing what to eat and when, so it is recommended to consult a health professional or dietitian for advice. Aerobic exercise helps to lower blood sugar by moving glucose into the cells to be used for energy. Exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, meaning you will need less insulin for the transportation of glucose into the cells.

Treatment for type 1 diabetes involves regular blood sugar checks and insulin injections, or the use of an insulin pump. Type 2 diabetes can be managed with lifestyle changes alone, alongside diabetes medications and/or insulin.  

How to manage diabetes

Alongside medication and insulin, the best way to manage diabetes is to learn about the effects of diet, exercise and treatment on your condition and to make the appropriate changes. It is important to monitor your carbohydrate and make sure your diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean proteins. Talk to your doctor about coordinating your meals and your diabetes medications in order to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). You should avoid drinking sugary drinks, although in the case of low blood sugar, in which case they can be an effective means of quickly raising blood sugar levels.

Speak to your doctor about whether you can drink alcohol with your condition. If the answer is yea, be aware that alcohol can result in low blood sugar lasting for 24 hours or more. Be sure never to drink on an empty stomach and take into consideration the calories of each beverage.

Regular exercise is a great way of lowering your blood sugar levels and can also help your body to use insulin more efficiently. Adults are recommended to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, or on most days of the week. Even light exercise, such as going for a brisk walk, can help. A doctor can help you put together an exercise schedule and instruct you on how to measure your blood sugar levels.

Many diabetic women find that the changes in hormonal levels of their menstrual cycle can influence their blood sugar levels quite significantly. Try keeping track of any monthly patterns and speak to your doctor about how you should adjust your treatment accordingly. If you known that your blood sugar levels become more unpredictable at certain times of the month, check your blood sugar more frequently.  

How can I reverse diabetes?

While diabetes cannot be cured, it is possible to reverse its progression and even put it into remission. The best means of doing this is by making long-term lifestyle changes that will improve your overall health. These include low-carbohydrate diets, low-calorie diets and a regular exercise plan. It is important to speak to a healthcare professional on how to implement these changes safely and effectively.

What would happen if diabetes was left untreated?

Diabetes is most easily managed if diagnosed and treated early. Untreated high glucose levels can cause serious health complications, including nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, and increased risk of heart disease or stroke. Extremely high blood sugar levels can even lead to coma. If you notice any of the early symptoms of diabetes, seek consultation from a doctor immediately. 

What foods should be avoided if you have diabetes?

Making strict dietary changes is essential to managing diabetes. Alongside including plenty of fibre and lean proteins in your diet, you should make a conscious effort to cut down on sugar, processed meat, saturated fats, salt, and energy-dense foods like crisps, cakes and biscuits.

Side Effects

What are the complications of diabetes?

Diabetes can have serious complications in the long term, particularly if blood sugar levels are not properly controlled. The possible complications of diabetes include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy)
  • Eye damage (retinopathy)
  • Foot damage
  • Skin conditions
  • Hearing impairment
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression

Q&A

Why does diabetes cause nerve damage?

High levels of sugar in the blood can cause damage to the walls of capillaries, which nourish your nerves. This is most common in the feet and legs, and can result in numbness or tingling, or complete loss of sensation. Damage can also be done to the nerves related to the digestive system, causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, or more permanent damage.  

Can diabetes affect your heart?

High levels of glucose in the blood can damage both the blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. The risk increases the longer you have diabetes, but can be controlled if blood glucose levels are managed effectively. 

Is diabetes fatal?

If it is not managed effectively, diabetes can have very serious complications which can be fatal. The condition is much easier to manage if diagnosed early on, so it is important to keep an eye out for symptoms and go for regular screenings if you are considered to be at risk of developing diabetes.

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