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Candy crush? Diabetes has become the illness of our age

After speaking to patients, Peter Kelly realised how endemic diabetes has become and that there are a multitude of reasons for why people develop the condition

It is diabetes awareness month so I decided to speak to a couple of patients in the pharmacy to see how things are going with their diabetes. The first patient I spoke with was a woman in her late 30s.

She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 12 years old. She now uses a pump for her insulin and also uses sensors to detect her blood sugar levels.

She said it is an absolute godsend and her diabetes is now well managed. She was referred for the pump as she had been hospitalised a few times with hypoglycaemia.

She said she felt medical staff were a little irritated and impatient with her when they heard she had been hospitalised with hypos.

They were of the view she should have been more vigilant in noticing hypos coming on and consuming sugar. She said that, in her defence, she would not get any symptoms of hypos until it was too late and she would become unconscious.

She said she wished medical staff were more aware that not every one gets symptoms of hypos and that it can sneak up on you.

I asked her if people ever get type 1 confused with type 2 diabetes.

She said pharmacy staff never do but her boss at work once commented about something she was eating and said that’s why she had diabetes. She found that very upsetting.

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The second patient I spoke with was a man in his late 60s with type 2 diabetes. As he said himself, it is a confusing topic.

He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago.

He was then told he did not have diabetes and finally he was told he had borderline diabetes and to stay on the tablets he was prescribed as they "will save his life".

He is on dapagliflozin and gliclazide. I asked him if he had made changes to his diet since the diagnosis and he told me he didn’t have a diet and that he only ate one meal a day.

I asked him if he had any trouble not eating sugar and volunteered that it was hard (thinking about myself).

He told me it was not hard and he pulled out a little pack of sweeteners and gave it a shake. He said: "I put these in my coffee and if I fancy something sweet, I will drink a diet soft drink."

Read more: The pharmacist helping patients feel better without medicines

I asked him whether he could have avoided getting diabetes if he was better informed.

He said no. He said he knew the causes but he did not worry about it and that it was an occupational hazard of his job. He is a retired police officer who always had a big meal after a shift and then went straight to bed.

He had told me once before that a very famous hotel in central London used to leave out the leftover cakes and sandwiches from its afternoon tea for the police on duty, although this no longer happens.

He said that there are some things in life you cannot avoid and he turned to me and said: "You are on your feet all day."

"By the time you are my age, you will probably have those veins people get in their legs," he added.

That has been at the back of my mind ever since our conversation.

I think diabetes has really become the illness of our age.

We all work long hours and live stressful lives and sugar has become the fuel, the crutch and the comfort we turn to, to get through the day.

Peter Kelly is a pharmacist at Kamsons Pharmacy

Want to refresh your knowledge about the symptoms and complications of diabetes? Take our free CPD module on the C+D Community.

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