According to Diabetes UKalmost 4 million people are living with diabetes in the UK. 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, 8% of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes and about 2% of people with diabetes have rarer types of diabetes. 

This week (Monday 8th to Sunday 14th June) is Diabetes Week 2020 so we have put together information about diabetes, its causes, when to seek medical advice and where to get more information and support.    

What is diabetes?   

According to NHS diabetes is “a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high”.  

There are three main types of diabetes:   

  • type 1 diabetes – a lifelong condition where your blood cannot get make a hormone called insulin and as a result your blood glucose levels are high.  
  • type 2 diabetes – a condition where your body can’t make enough insulin, or your insulin can’t work properly.
  • gestational diabetes - during pregnancy some women have high levels of blood glucose and their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to manage it all.   

Type 2 diabetes is the most usual, with 90% all adults with diabetes in the UK form of the condition (1).    

What are the causes?   

Our blood sugar is controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas.   

During the digestion process, insulin works to move the glucose from the blood into the cells where it can be used to produce energy.   

If you are diabetic, there is not enough insulin to move the glucose into the cells or the insulin does not work properly.   

When to seek medical attention   

Seek medical attention if you are experiencing:   

  • feeling very thirsty  
  • peeing 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  

You can call 111 for advice or ring your GP directly. It is important to take advice; GPs currently want to help people manage long term health conditions.   

Diabetes and coronavirus  

Diabetes UK has some great advice about how coronavirus might impact on people with diabetes, how to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus and what happens if you contract coronavirus and have diabetes.  

This information is being regularly updated so contains advice in line with the latest government guidance.   

How to self-manage your diabetes?

Whittington Health offers a range of free self-management courses to help people in Islington manage long term health conditions.

The Diabetes Self-Management Programme is designed to help you better manage your diabetes and gain control of your health. The course covers information about living with type 2 diabetes (e.g. managing diet, exercise, medication) as well as skills and tools to help you learn to self-manage e.g. finding solutions to everyday problems when living with diabetes, relaxation techniques, communication with friends and family and other coping strategies.

The course is co-delivered by a tutor living with type 2 diabetes and a healthcare professional (e.g. a nurse).

How can the Diabetes Self Management Programme help you?

People who have come on the course tell us it has made a big difference to them, they feel more positive, able to manage their health and enjoy life again. Benefits include:

  • A ‘Tool kit’ of techniques that you can try out for yourself.
  • Different topics covered each week.
  • Times to share and discuss.
  • Building confidence that you can cope with your condition and work towards what’s important to you (your personal goals).
  • Being with others who know what it’s like and can share tips
  • Focusing on taking control of your condition rather than it controlling you
  • Taking small, gradual steps – pacing.
  • 12 months after attending the programme people’s HBa1C levels are reduced on average by 0.9%. 

“The DSMP gave me the tools to seek help and advice from my health carers and to find the solutions to the various problems. I now have improved health, take less medication and feel a lot better. The feeling that I was alone and did not have anyone who cared or listened to me has gone. I feel in control of my own health."

 Contact Whittington Health for more information and to find out when the next course is taking place.

Where to get information  

Diabetes UK: find information about how to live and manage diabetes. They have a helpline: 0345123 2399, advocacy information and an online community. 

The Islington Diabetes UK Group: founded in November 2005, many of their members are living with Type 2 diabetes, but we also support and include those living with Type 1 diabetes.  (add website is a global online diabetes community with information on prevention and guides on managing diabetes 

NHS guidance on type 1 diabetes 

NHS guidance on type 2 diabetes

NHS guidance on Gestational diabetes

If you would like more health and wellbeing tips, sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page. Alternatively, you can get in touch via our General Enquiries line on 020 3931 6080 or email [email protected]

We are open Mon-Fri, 10am - 4pm (excluding bank holidays).


  1. NHS website: