The devastating legacy of a silent disease

Susan Dayer having her blood pressure checked by diabetes specialist nurse Abbi Bown
Susan Dayer having her blood pressure checked by diabetes specialist nurse Abbi Bown

Leighton Buzzard diabetes expert Dr Taru Patel has described diabetes as a silent disease which can have a devastating legacy if diagnosis is delayed.

With numbers continuing to rise, Dr Patel who is clinical diabetes lead for NHS Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) and a GP at Leighton Road surgery, has urged anyone with symptoms to see their GP for a health check.

Symptoms include excessive thirst, passing urine more often, and unexplained weight loss especially around the tummy.

Many people have no obvious symptoms of the disease which affects 3.8 million people in the UK.

Speaking on the eve of Diabetes Week (June 14-20), Dr Patel explained: “We sometimes talk about the legacy effect of diabetes because the earlier it is picked up and kept under control, the better. Prompt diagnosis can minimise the effect it has in shortening people’s lives.

“Uncontrolled diabetes gets progressively worse, and without treatment can lead to kidney disease, blindness, heart disease and stroke, limb amputation and can cause premature death. “Regular monitoring and advice from diabetes clinics at your local GP surgery are important ways to help to maintain the health of diabetic patients.”

Susan Dayer from Leighton Buzzard was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 12 years ago and has worked hard to manage the condition.

Susan said: “I know how important it is to eat a healthy diet and take exercise to keep my diabetes under control.

“I recently had a hip operation and although I enjoy walking, the reduced mobility while I recover from surgery has affected my diabetes and made it more of a struggle to control.

“The advice and support from my GP and the practice nurses has been excellent. The regular health checks, and information from the Desmond workshop run by the L&D Hospital were incredibly helpful.”

Specialist diabetes nurse Abbi Bown at Leighton Road surgery in Leighton Buzzard advises people not to be tempted by extreme diets or to buy costly so-called diabetic foods.

Abbi said: “It’s much more important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and take some exercise.

“We can support patients with dietary advice and give regular checks to monitor how well the diabetes is managed.

“The trouble with many foods labelled as low fat, is that they are often loaded with hidden sugar, so you do need to check carefully.”

Amanda Johnson, from Leighton Buzzard, developed diabetes suddenly following a severe infection. She relies on insulin injections and urges people to take this lifelong disease more seriously.

She said: “I love to read and my biggest fear is that diabetes could rob me of my sight, so the annual retina scan at hospital to check the health of my eyes and pick up early signs of any problems is really important to me.

“Many people do not realise how dangerous and frightening a hypo is, when your blood sugar level drops too low.

“It is a horrible experience, so if your diabetic friend feels unwell and has symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, trembling or is unable to concentrate, they could be having a hypo.

“Help them to take care as a hypo can lead to coma and even be fatal. A sugary drink followed by a short rest and a snack to restore blood sugar levels helps.”

As well as the support of the GP and practice nurses, there is a wealth of information on the Diabetes UK website https://www.diabetes.org.uk