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Diabetes and HIV

what is hiv

Diabetes is a common condition – type 2 diabetes can be managed by lifestyle changes such as a good diet, exercise and not smoking.

What causes diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood and is an autoimmune condition, not caused by lifestyle.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, usually develops later in life. It can sometimes be caused by lifestyle factors and is more common in overweight people who don’t exercise enough. There are also other risk factors such as family history and ethnicity.

Diabetes in people living with HIV

Diabetes can also develop in people with HIV, sometimes because of the inflammation caused by HIV.

People with HIV are also more likely to have other risk factors for diabetes - links have been found between type 2 diabetes and those antiretroviral treatments:

  • AZT
  • indinavir
  • the little used d4T
  • full doses of the booster drug Ritonavir.

Diabetes is also linked to ageing, so as people living with HIV become older this adds a further risk factor for diabetes.

People living with HIV over the age of 40 will have routine blood glucose tests to check for signs of diabetes.

The following symptoms could be signs of diabetes:

  • a constant thirst
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • wounds taking longer to heal
  • a need to urinate frequently - especially at night
  • genital itching or thrush.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes means having too much glucose in the blood (blood sugar) because the body is unable to use it properly.

Glucose is extracted from food, then used by our cells to make energy. The glucose in the body is regulated by insulin, which is a hormone made by the pancreas - it helps the glucose get into the cells.

There are two types of diabetes. If you have type 1, your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin, this is usually diagnosed in childhood.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when you don’t produce enough insulin (insulin deficiency) or your body cannot use the insulin you do make (insulin resistance) so the glucose stops being regulated. Eventually the levels of glucose in the blood become too high, resulting in what is known as high blood sugar.

How is diabetes treated?

Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin, which is usually injected with a special pen or dispensed with an insulin pump.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed initially by lifestyle changes including stopping smoking, taking more exercise, improving your diet and losing weight if necessary.

Diabetes UK have an online training course to help you manage type 2 diabetes. You have to sign up to access the course.

These measures will often keep your blood glucose levels under control, although it will probably need to be managed with medication at some point.

More about diabetes:

Next: Heart problems and HIV ››

‹‹ Back to: Cancer and HIV



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 3/1/2018 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 3/1/2021

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health promotion

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