What is Diabetes?


Eimear Nee, the Allcare Pharmacy trainer, discusses what diabetes is and how Allcare can support you.


Diabetes is a condition that causes a person's blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. The amount of glucose in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin. Diabetes occurs when there is a lack of insulin in the body, or when the body does not respond properly to insulin. Without insulin, the amount of glucose in the bloodstream builds up and becomes too high.

There are 2 main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes occurs where the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin, meaning that the body cannot produce insulin. It is a lifelong condition that is commonly first diagnosed in children or young adults, and the symptoms appear suddenly. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin and therefore manage their diabetes by injecting insulin to control their blood sugar level.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin, or the body does not respond to insulin. Type 2 diabetes develops slowly and is much more common than Type 1. It tends to affect people as they get older (usually over the age of 40), however, it is becoming much more common in younger people due to rising rates of obesity in these age groups. In some mild cases, type 2 diabetes may be managed firstly with diet, exercise, and weight loss. However, most people need medicine to control their type 2 diabetes. These medicines help to lower the amount of glucose in the blood. Diabetes often gets worse over time, and medicines may be changed, or insulin needed in some cases.

Gestational diabetes is another type of diabetes, which can occur in pregnancy. The condition occurs in approximately 4% of all pregnancies. In gestational diabetes, the body is not able to produce enough insulin to absorb high levels of glucose that are in the blood. Usually, blood sugar levels return to normal within six weeks of childbirth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Symptoms of diabetes

Diabetes symptoms arise when a lack of insulin causes glucose to stay in the blood instead of it being used to produce energy in the body. When insulin levels are low, the body responds by removing excess glucose through the urine. Symptoms of diabetes vary, depending on the individual and the type of diabetes. Common signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Tiredness
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent passing of urine
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Recurrent thrush infections
  • Slow healing of wounds/recurrent infection

Once the condition is being managed well with medicines or insulin, these symptoms should not occur.

Almost a quarter of a million people in Ireland are thought to be living with diabetes. Some people are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is most common in those with:

  • Obesity
  • Family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Increasing age. Although most common over the age of 40, type 2 diabetes is increasing in among children, adolescents and younger adults due to rising obesity rates
  • Body fat is mostly around the abdomen, rather than in areas such as in the hips and thighs.
  • Inactivity
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • It is unknown why those who are of South Asian descent, African or African-Caribbean descent can have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes


Type 2 diabetes symptoms can develop slowly and people may have high blood glucose levels for up to two years before symptoms appear. Those who are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes may be detected before the onset of symptoms. Screening helps to identify people who are at risk, and those who should be referred to their doctor for further testing or diagnosis.

At Allcare, we offer a Diabetes 5 Point Health Check service, which helps to identify your risk factors for diabetes. The test involves taking a small finger prick sample of blood, a blood pressure check, a BMI check and waist circumference measurement. The pharmacist or a trained member of the pharmacy team will also discuss ways to reduce your risk of diabetes and may refer you to your GP if they think you need further tests.

Seasonal winter flu can be very serious in those with diabetes. Our Allcare pharmacists can provide free vaccination to those who have diabetes.

For those who have diabetes, our Allcare pharmacists are available to discuss any queries or concerns relating to your condition or your medicines. It is important that those who have diabetes take care of their health to reduce their risk of developing other conditions such as heart attack, kidney damage, nerve damage and eye complications.  

Tips to avoid complications from diabetes include:

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Take your medication as prescribed
  • Have regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks

Pop into your local Allcare or call to book your Diabetes consultation. To find out more on the consultation, click below.