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Diabetes is when people have too much glucose (a type of sugar) in their blood.

What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has diabetes?

Siblings often get on really well with their brothers and sisters who have diabetes. However, they may feel left out because of all the extra attention which their brother or sister gets. They can feel that it’s unfair that their brother or sister gets is allowed to miss school because of hospital appointments and they don’t. It can also be difficult if siblings are allowed to eat different food to their brother or sister – they can feel guilty about this. Siblings may feel worried about what happens if their brothers and sisters’ blood sugar levels aren’t right and they have ‘hypos’, caused by too little blood sugar, or ‘hypers’, caused by too much blood sugar. These can be frightening to watch.

What causes diabetes?

People’s bodies normally make a chemical called insulin. This helps the body turn glucose into energy. When someone has diabetes, their body doesn’t make enough insulin. This means the body cannot use the glucose, so it stays in the blood.

Diabetes cannot be caught from somebody else. Doctors don’t know why some people get diabetes and some don’t. Type 1 diabetes is not caused by being overweight but being overweight can make it more likely for someone to get type 2 diabetes.

What does it mean?

People with diabetes may feel tired and very thirsty. They may also want to go to the toilet a lot – especially in the night. Diabetes can give them tingly feelings in their hands and feet and can also make their eyesight blurry.  People with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin. People with type 2 diabetes produce some insulin, but not enough, or sometimes what they produce doesn’t work very well.

What treatment is there?

People with Type 1 diabetes have to give themselves insulin daily by injecting themselves or using an insulin pump. This is important because insulin helps their bodies use energy from the food they eat so they can do day to day activities.The main treatment for people who have type 2 diabetes is to have a healthy diet and avoid food with a lot of sugar in. Also to have lots of exercise and try to lose a bit of weight. Many people with type 2 diabetes also need some medicines to help the insulin work. Some may need insulin injections.