DIABETES sufferers in South Tyneside are urging people of all ages to be aware of the symptoms.
The blood sugar condition affects about 8,000 people in the borough – but many more remain undiagnosed.
Clare Allom, lead campaigner for the South Tyneside Diabetes UK Voluntary Group, is using Diabetes Week this week to raise awareness of the signs and risk factors.
The 67-year-old, from Whiteleas, South Shields, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2000, but said: “I must have had it for 10 years before I knew about it. We need to get people signposted to their GP.
“The sooner they go, the less damage their diabetes will cause. It affects every organ in the body.”
The South Tyneside Diabetes UK Voluntary Group has been going for about 25 years and has 20 or so members.
Clare has been involved since 2000. She said: “This group has been active for decades.
“I believe the purpose of this group is to give each other support and help those and their carers living with diabetes by giving them the same support.
“Our group has brought to our meetings clinicians to let us know the changes in the care of diabetes and advise us how to beat and take control of our condition.
“We have been given opportunities to get involved in raising awareness of how to recognise the symptoms of diabetes and how to signpost the public to seek medical advice if necessary.
“As a group, we have held coffee mornings, barbecues, tea dances and some members who are more energetic go biking, walking, etc, to raise funds for vital research.
“Campaigning for better services is important and we will continue to challenge the powers that be to keep diabetes at the forefront.”
The group has long campaigned for South Tyneside to be brought in line with neighbouring Sunderland, Newcastle and Gateshead with the creation of a specialist diabetes centre.
The newly-formed clinical commissioning group that has replaced the primary care trust is also striving to improve services, added Mrs Allom.
Maria Ward has been a member of the South Tyneside Diabetes UK Voluntary Group since 1998.
The 54-year-old, from South Shields, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2009. She recognised the symptoms, as her daughter, Steffani, 18, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of three.
She said: “Steffani has received support and guidance from the South Tyneside paediatric team.
“She has been on family support weekends and attended education sessions and has now made the transition over to adult services.
“I have been into Steffani’s school to talk to pupils about the condition and attended awareness days and conferences.
“Anyone is welcome to come along to our support group.”
The group meets at Holy Rosary Church in Horsley Hill Square, South Shields, and is canvassing opinion on holding meetings in Jarrow for those living in the west of the borough.
n For more information, contact Clare on 536 9698 or Maria on 07963 494 260.
The group will also be at the Big Health Day at South Shields Central Library on Wednesday, June 19, from 10am to 3pm.
Are you at risk? Check for signs of illness
DIABETES is a lifelong condition in which the level of glucose in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.
Type 1 diabetes develops when the body is unable to produce any insulin, the hormone that allows glucose to enter cells, where it is used as fuel for energy.
Diabetes usually develops early in life and is treated with insulin injections or an insulin pump.
About 15 per cent of diabetics are Type 1.
Type 2 diabetes is the most widespread and usually develops in later life, caused by the body not making enough insulin.
It can usually be treated with diet and physical activity alone, or by combining these with tablets.
There are also some much rarer forms of diabetes, including gestational diabetes, which affects women during pregnancy.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, tell your doctor about them:
* Increased thirst
* Going to the toilet all the time
* Extreme tiredness
* Weight loss
* Blurred vision
* Genital itching/regular episodes of thrush
* Slow healing of wounds.
Risk factors of diabetes include:
* Age (40-plus if white, 25-plus if black or minority ethnic)
* A family history of diabetes
* Your waist measurement is more than 31.5in if you’re a woman), 37in for white or black men and 35in for Asian men
* If you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke or circulatory problems
* If you had gestational diabetes and/or a large baby
* Polycystic ovary syndrome and overweight
* Severe mental health problems.