Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
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Diabetes, a health condition that is one of the main contributors to the global burden of chronic diseases, has been on the rise for more than four decades now.
An estimated 8.5 percent of individuals over 18 years of age contribute to the global prevalence of diabetes. If you read statistics from the 1980s, you’ll find 108 million people having diabetes, whereas, in 2014, cases increased to 422 million. (1)
Moreover, three years ago, diabetes caused 1.6 million deaths, and this number is on the rise despite technological advancements in the field of healthcare.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease. It occurs when your body fails to produce adequate insulin or when the insulin is there but the body cannot effectively use this insulin – insulin being the hormone responsible for regulation of blood sugar (glucose).
Glucose is vital for survival because it is an important source of energy for cells in your body. It is also the primary source of fuel for the brain.
You can well imagine that with functions as important as these, the body needs glucose in absolutely perfect range, neither less nor more.
Therefore, the resulting raised levels of glucose in the blood due to diabetes can cause serious damage, especially to nerves and blood vessels, in the long run.
This article will take you through the signs and symptoms of diabetes to help you make timely consultation with your physician and prevent any complications.
Towards the end, there’s also a section on the risk factors that you can make use of to timely diagnose/prevent diabetes.
Let’s begin with the types.
The three major types of diabetes
1. Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as insulin-dependent and juvenile or childhood-onset diabetes): It occurs when there is lack of insulin produced by the pancreas and the body cannot process glucose.
2. Type 2 diabetes (previously called non-insulin-dependent, or adult-onset diabetes): It results when your body cannot use insulin properly. This is termed as insulin resistance.
3. Gestational diabetes: It is a condition that develops during pregnancy in females who did not have diabetes previously and results in high blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery of the child but poses a risk to complications like depression, pre-eclampsia, and requiring a Caesarean section.
Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes
How can you tell if you suffer from any form of diabetes stated above?
With type 1 diabetes, the diagnosis is made earlier as symptoms occur quickly and are more severe, whereas, with type 2 diabetes, the warning signs are often so mild that people usually fail to notice them and end up in health complications from the disease.
Timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent these complications, and that is why it is important to be aware of the warning signs of diabetes and alert your healthcare provider if you notice any of these signs.
One in four people is unaware of the fact that they have diabetes. But you don’t have to become one of these statistics. Read on to find out the signs and symptoms of this chronic illness.
1. Excessive thirst and frequent urination
The medical terms for excessive thirst and frequent urination are polydipsia and polyuria, respectively. These two are classic signs of diabetes, be it type 1 or type 2.
On average, a person pees between four to seven times a day, depending on his fluid intake. However, individuals with diabetes may have to rush to the bathroom way more than seven times a day. Here’s why it happens:
You know there is excess glucose in the blood when you have diabetes. This excess forces your kidneys to work overtime, filter glucose, and absorb it to bring back into the bloodstream.
However, the excess of glucose is such that it becomes difficult to absorb all of it and this causes the kidneys to make more urine.
You see, a cycle would be created where your kidneys make urine over and over again in an attempt to bring back glucose into the blood, you’ll pee more, loss of fluid in the form of urine will make you thirsty, you drink more, and so you pee even more.
2. Dry mouth
Despite drinking excessive water in diabetes, the mouth remains dry. It is because kidneys make more urine to absorb glucose and a person pees more; therefore, less fluid is left for other things.
3. Unexpected weight loss
Remember how diabetes causes most glucose from your blood being passed out in the urine? It is not just the glucose that you are losing; it is also the calories that this glucose could have provided.
So, even when you have not changed your diet patterns, loss of calories leaves you with less energy. Moreover, diabetes prevents the supply of glucose to the cells – one of the reasons that this glucose roams about in the blood instead of being inside the cells.
The combined effect is potential weight loss. It is more pronounced and rapid in the case of type 1 diabetes.
The fact that a person is more at risk of dehydration and losing calories makes fatigue a plausible sign of diabetes.
5. Nausea and vomiting
When the body does not get enough energy from glucose metabolism, it resorts to metabolizing fats for its energy needs. Fat burning makes ketones – the reason behind nausea and vomiting.
Having high levels of ketone bodies in the bloodstream can lead to a life-threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
6. Tingling or loss of sensation in hands and feet
As mentioned earlier, excessive blood sugar in the blood can specifically cause damage to nerves and blood vessels. It can lead to pain, tingling, or a numbness/loss of sensation in hands, arms, feet, and legs.
7. Slow healing
You must have heard that individuals with bleeding disorders have slow healing of a cut or an injury. Similar is the case with people who have diabetes.
Due to nerve damage and affected blood flow, the natural healing process gets slowed in these individuals.
8. More infections
Individuals with diabetes tend to suffer from infections more than their healthy counterparts.
Although there is not sufficient evidence to state that this is entirely true, physicians have observed that their patients commonly report yeast infections.
Infections of bladder and vagina are specifically common in females having diabetes, but yeast can be seen thriving in any moist fold of the skin, such as between fingers.
9. Blurred vision
Changing level of fluids in the body affects most of your organs including your eyes. It can make the lens of your eyes swell up, change their shape, and lose their ability to focus.
If left untreated, diabetes can cause blurring of the vision and even blindness.
10. Swollen gums
Diabetes increases your risk of having gum inflammation. The gums may pull away from the teeth and expose the underlying bone, or it may cause swelling and soreness of the gums.
Swollen gums are more likely if you had a gum disease before you developed diabetes.
If you encounter any of these signs and symptoms of diabetes, do not delay consulting a doctor.
Early-initiated treatment can save you from the complications of this serious disease and can help you manage diabetes while leading a healthy and active life.
It is worth to mention the risks of diabetes so that you are even more conscious of any hints related to diabetes.
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes
- Family history: If you have a close relative having diabetes, you are more likely to get it, too. It is safe to consult a doctor before the appearance of any signs. A simple blood test can rule out the condition.
- Race: Type 1 diabetes is more common in white individuals as compared to others.
- Pancreatic disease: Any disease of the pancreas can affect the formulation of insulin, hence more risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
- Obesity: Research has found obesity as the leading reason behind type 2 diabetes.
- Ethnic background: African-Americans, Native Americans, Latino Americans, Asian-Americans, and Alaska natives have a higher risk compared to other ethnic groups.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Little or no physical activity makes you prone to diabetes.
- Age: Being overweight and over 45 years of age is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: If you had diabetes during pregnancy, there are chances that you might have type 2 diabetes after the delivery period is over.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): It’s a condition in which females tend to produce high levels of male hormones – more than the expected normal levels in females. Women having PCOS are at a higher risk of diabetes.
If you have any of these risk factors, you can begin by managing your blood pressure, maintaining ideal body weight, and eating a balanced diet. Consult your doctor for further information.
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