James Norton reveals how he manages his diabetes during theatre run

James Norton, pictured, who has shared how he managed his diabetes during the run of A Little Life. (Getty Images)
James Norton has shared how he managed his diabetes during the run of A Little Life. (Getty Images)

James Norton has revealed how "proud" he is to have overcome the challenge of managing diabetes while performing in his new play, A Little Life.

The Happy Valley star, 37, said he had glucose shots and food hidden on stage to allow him to control his blood sugar levels during the three-and-a-half hour performances.

"Adrenaline affects sugar levels," the actor, who has type one diabetes, told BBC. "I can’t leave the stage apart from the interval for three and a hour hours, so I have to find ingenious ways of working out what my sugar levels are doing and then mitigating against going hypoglycaemic, which is a risky low, which would cause me to become disorientated and sweat, and eventually faint.

“If you’d asked me six months ago whether iI’d be able to do a three-and-a-half-hour play as a diabetic, I’d have been really scared.

“I’m so proud that I’ve been able to prove to myself and other type 1 diabetics that I’m able to do that.”

Read more: ‘Happy Valley’ star reveals secret stage tricks to manage diabetes during gruelling four-hour play, Deadline, 1-min read

Woman testing levels for diabetes with a monitor. (Getty Images)
While managing diabetes can be challenging, you can still do the things you enjoy in life. (Getty Images)

It's important that just because diabetes is a hidden condition, it doesn't get ignored.

More than 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes, while 13.6 million are at an increased risk of type 2, according to Diabetes UK.

So, whether you suspect you might have the condition, have been recently diagnosed, are supporting someone else with it or just want to learn more, here's what you need to know.

Read more: Woman achieves 11st weight loss and reverses her diabetes after young death warning, Yahoo Life UK, 7-min read

Diabetes nurse with patient doing finger prick. (Getty Images)
If you're diagnosed with diabetes, a medical professional will explain all you need to know about managing it. (Getty Images)

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood glucose levels (also called blood sugar) to become too high, according to the NHS. There are two main types, type 1 and type 2, though some can also get gestational diabetes.

Pre-diabetes is when people have blood glucose levels above the normal range, but are not high enough to be diagnosed with the condition itself. But it's important to keep in mind that if your levels are higher than most, your risk of developing full-scale diabetes is increased.

Getting diabetes diagnosed early on is key to prevent it getting progressively worse, which can happen if left untreated.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Woman using lancet on finger for checking blood sugar level by glucose meter. (Getty Images)
The finger-prick test has long been used to manage diabetes, though there are now more advanced methods. (Getty Images)

Type 1 diabetes is where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. You need to take insulin every day to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Type 1 is not linked with age, being overweight or lifestyle factors, whereas type 2 is.

Type 1 symptoms

The NHS website says you should see a GP if you have symptoms of type 1, which include:

  • feeling very thirsty

  • peeing more than usual, particularly at night

  • feeling very tired

  • losing weight without trying

  • thrush that keeps coming back

  • blurred vision

  • cuts and grazes that are not healing

  • fruity-smelling breath

Type 1 signs and symptoms can come on quickly, particularly in children.

Type 1 diagnosis

To get tested, your GP will do a urine test and might also check your blood glucose level.

If you are diagnosed, then a specialist diabetes nurse will explain everything you need to know about the condition, including how to manage it, test your own blood glucose and how to inject insulin.

Finger-prick tests have long been used to manage diabetes, though you can now check your glucose levels at any time with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or flash monitor.

This involves using a sensor, a small device you attach to your arm or tummy that senses how much glucose is in the 'interstitial' fluid under your skin, and a reader or receiver, which shows the results (you can also read them on your smartphone). Some types have optional alarms to alert you if your levels go too low or high.

Although being diagnosed with and managing diabetes can be difficult at times, you can still do the things you enjoy. This useful NHS guide on being newly diagnosed provides information to help, including how to recognise and treat a hypo, useful websites, online courses and more.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Man drinking a fresh glass of water at home. (Getty Images)
Do you have the symptoms of diabetes? (Getty Images)

Type 2 diabetes is where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin. It is far more common than type 1, with around 90% of all adults in the UK with diabetes living with it.

It can be linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes. You're also more at risk of this type of diabetes if you're over 40 (or 25 for south Asian people), have a close relative with diabetes, are overweight or obese, are of Asian, African-Caribbean or black African heritage.

Many people can have type 2 diabetes without realising, because symptoms don't always make you feel unwell.

Type 2 symptoms

The NHS website says you should see a GP if you have symptoms of type 2 (similar to type 1), which include:

  • peeing more than usual, particularly at night

  • feeling thirsty all the time

  • feeling very tired

  • losing weight without trying to

  • itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush

  • cuts or wounds taking longer to heal

  • blurred vision

Type 2 diagnosis

You should also see a GP straight away if you're worried you may have a higher risk of getting type 2, who will ask you about your symptoms. You check your risk here.

Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed by blood or urine tests or something else, with results usually taking one to two days to come back.

If you have the condition, your GP will explain the results, what to expect next and the treatment they recommend. They'll typically talk to you about what the condition is, how high blood sugar can impact your health, if you need to take medicine, your diet and exercise, lifestyle factors like drinking and smoking.

For more information, visit the NHS' website on diabetes, or seek support from Diabetes UK on 0345123 2399.