Health Wise – Women and Diabetes

We’re focused on making sure that employers and employees work together to create an environment that encourages health and well-being in the workplace.

Part of this is ensuring that people are educated about the health issues that some face on a daily basis. Each year, national campaigns attempt to highlight certain conditions.

Tuesday, November 14th is World Diabetes Day and this year its theme is ‘Women and diabetes - Our right to a healthy future’.

Women & Diabetes – The Facts

  • There are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes.
  • By 2040, this total is projected to increase to 313 million.
  • Two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age.
  • This accounts for over 60 million women worldwide.
  • Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally.
  • Every year, 2.1 million women die due to diabetes.
  • Women with type 2 diabetes are almost 10 times more likely to have coronary heart disease.
  • Women with type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of early miscarriage or having a baby with malformations.

What is diabetes?

The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach).

Often linked to being overweight, diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to help glucose enter your body’s cells, or the insulin that is produced does not work properly.

As a result, a person's blood sugar level becomes too high and the glucose isn’t used as fuel for energy. When this happens, the body tries to reduce the levels by flushing excess glucose out of the body in the urine.

There are two main types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

This is when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.

Type 2 diabetes

This is when the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells don't react to insulin. It’s the most common form, with around 90% of all adults with diabetes in the UK having type 2.

Some pregnant women have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes.

Pre-diabetes

Many people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes.

This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range, your risk of developing full-blown diabetes is increased.

It's very important for diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible because it will get progressively worse if left untreated. Especially since Type 1 diabetes can develop quickly over weeks or even days.

When to see a doctor

Many people have type 2 diabetes for years without realising because the early symptoms tend to be general.

If you experience the main symptoms of diabetes, you should visit your GP as soon as possible. These include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating more frequently than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling very tired
  • Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
  • Itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
  • Cuts or wounds that heal slowly
  • Blurred vision

Living with diabetes

If you're diagnosed with diabetes, you'll need to eat healthily, take regular exercise and carry out regular blood tests to ensure your blood glucose levels stay balanced.

You can use a BMI healthy weight calculator to check whether you're a healthy weight.

People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes also require regular insulin injections for the rest of their life.

As type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, medication may eventually be required, usually in the form of tablets.

Diabetic eye screening

Everyone aged 12 or over with diabetes should be invited to have their eyes screened once a year.

If you have diabetes, your eyes are at risk from diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to sight loss if it's not treated.

Screening, which involves a half-hour check to examine the back of the eyes, is a way of detecting the condition early so it can be treated more effectively.

If you’d like some advice on how our occupational health services can help you to support staff with diabetes, give us a call.

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Categories: EmployeesHealth & WellbeingHealth WiseOccupational Health

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