Diabetes in the UK
Diabetes has recently become a focal point of health care systems around the world due to its high prevalence and the severity of secondary complications caused by the disease. Over the course of my project on diabetes, I have had the opportunity to speak with a group of diabetics to understand from a patient’s perspective how diabetes is managed in a rural community. While I found that while some patients ignored treatment and refused to make any dietary changes, the majority of the patients I interviewed were well-informed and actively managing diabetes in their everyday life.
Background on Diabetes:
Throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, between 2 and 3 of every 100 people have a known form of diabetes (DTC, 2004). What is diabetes? Explained simply, it is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. In the normal state of glucose function, there is a stable release and uptake of glucose, regulated by two hormones produced in the pancreas, glucagon and insulin. There are two distinct mechanisms which give rise to the abnormal blood glucose levels seen in patients with type I and type II diabetes. In type I diabetes, a deficiency in insulin production at the pancreas results in elevated blood glucose levels due to the lack of hormonal regulation. In type II diabetes, although the pancreas produces regular levels of insulin, the body resists the effect of insulin, inhibiting the ability of insulin to break down glucose in the blood. Because of the inherent differences in the biochemical mechanisms of these two diseases, the characteristics associated with type I and type II diabetes are very different. The typical onset of type I diabetes is usually in youth, with an acute and dramatic hypoglycemic attack. Type II diabetes is more frequently seen in older patients, who have a strong familial link with the disease. Accompanying genetics, environmental factors, such as lack of exercise and obesity, play major roles in causing type II diabetes.
Why do we treat diabetes? There are a number of downstream events associated with abnormal blood glucose levels. If glucose levels are managed properly, the complications associated diabetes can be controlled, and sometimes completely prevented. The main problem with having more than the normal amount of glucose circulating in the blood stream is the effect that excess glucose can have on both large and small blood vessels (DTC, 2004). Micro-vascular and macro-vascular problems associated with diabetes can be seen in the heart, eyes, kidney, legs and feet. Diabetic patients are twice as likely to suffer from a mycocardial infaraction, twenty-five times more likely to suffer blindness, and seventeen times more likely to suffer kidney failure compared to a non-diabetic (DTC, 2004). Because of great number of risks associated with abnormal blood glucose levels, diabetes is aggressively treated to improve the quality of life and...