If you have diabetes you have too much glucose (blood sugar) because your body cannot use it properly. When you eat, your cells make glucose from your food, which is then used to make energy. The glucose in your body is regulated by insulin, which is a hormone made by your pancreas.
There are two types of diabetes. If you have Type I, your body doesn't make enough insulin; this is usually diagnosed in childhood. Type II diabetes occurs when your body stops responding to the insulin which is produced 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.
Type II diabetes is often caused by lifestyle and is more common when people are overweight and do not exercise enough. It can also develop in people with HIV. The links between HIV and diabetes are not fully understood and it is not clear whether the virus itself can cause it. Studies have found, however, links between diabetes and some antiretroviral treatments. These include AZT, Indinavir, d4T and 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. Most people on antiretroviral treatment will have routine blood glucose tests to check for signs of diabetes. The following symptoms could be a sign of high blood sugar: a constant thirst, blurred vision, fatigue, weight loss and a need to urinate frequently. Other early signs of diabetes include erection problems and genital itching or thrush.
The good news is that type II diabetes can be managed initially by lifestyle changes including stopping smoking, taking more exercise, improving your diet and losing weight if necessary. These measures will often keep diabetes under control, although it may need to be managed with medication at some point.