Diabetes is a serious metabolic disorder that affects children and adults alike. It is characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood, due to the lack of insulin or inability of the body to utilize the available insulin. If left untreated, it can badly affect your health by causing several long term complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, blindness and kidney disease. That being said, a diabetic patient can lead a normal life if the disease is diagnosed and treated at the early stage itself. For an early detection of the disease, it is important to be familiar with the various signs of diabetes. One important thing to remember is that most of the symptoms of diabetes resemble the symptoms of many common ailments. So if you experience any of these symptoms, a doctor must be consulted straight away instead of ignoring them as minor illnesses.
Types of diabetes
Before understanding the signs of diabetes, let’s be familiar with the types of diabetes. Diabetes can occur in three different forms namely
- Type 1 diabetes – This is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by failure of the insulin producing beta cells to produce insulin. This situation occurs when body’s own immune system mistakes these cells to be intruders and destroys them. The lack of insulin causes the sugar level to increase beyond the normal level. It has been estimated that 10 % of all the diabetic patients in the United States suffer from type 1 diabetes. Genetics and environmental factors are considered to be the culprits of this type of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can affect people at any ages, but children and young adults are the most common victims.
- Type 2 diabetes – This condition is also characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood. However, in this case, although the body produces insulin, the cells are unable to make use of it for converting glucose into energy. As a result the blood sugar level rises. Type 2 diabetes is commonly seen in adults and is mostly caused by leading a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and unhealthy diet.
- Gestational diabetes – This type of diabetes occurs in pregnant women. Similar to the other two types of diabetes, gestational diabetes also causes an increase in the blood sugar level. The reason behind the rise in sugar level is attributed to the action of pregnancy hormones on the cells, making them less responsive to the effects of insulin. Women with gestational diabetes usually return to their normal state after their pregnancy. However, they have higher risk of contracting diabetes later on in their lives.
Warning signs of diabetes
The signs and symptoms of diabetes is not the same for everyone. It can vary from person to person. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually diagnosed during a person’s childhood or early adulthood, whereas type 2 diabetes can affect a person without presenting any symptoms whatsoever. That is the reason why many type 2 diabetic patients are not even aware that they have diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually does not present any symptoms in most women except in rare cases where there may be increased thirst and frequent urination. The common warning signs of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst – In the case of type 1 diabetes, the hormones that regulate the removal of water from the body is affected, causing your kidneys to excrete excess water from the body. This leaves you dehydrated makes you excessively thirsty. In type 2 diabetes, your kidneys work extremely hard to remove the excess glucose in the blood by drawing out too much water from the tissues. This also makes you dehydrated and thirsty.
- Frequent urination – Due to dehydration and increased thirst, you tend to drink lots of water, which makes you want to urinate frequently.
- Increased hunger – Even though there are high levels of glucose in the blood, the cells cannot utilize it for producing energy. The cells are thus deprived of the nutrients and the body remains unfed. The brain handles this situation by stimulating the region of the hypothalamus that regulates hunger, making you feel hungry.
- Rapid weight loss – As the cells do not get enough glucose to produce energy, the fat reserves are broken down to meet the energy demands of the body. This leads to rapid weight loss in diabetic patients.
- Fatigue – Due to the inability of the cells to produce energy from glucose, the body cannot remain energetic and active.
- Blurred vision – High levels of sugar in the blood causes the drawing out of fluid from the lens of the eye, causing swelling. Once the blood sugar level is brought down, the swelling starts to shrink. The swelling and shrinking of the lens can alter its focal length, resulting in blurred vision.
- Slow healing wounds–Diabetes can lead to thickening of the blood vessels, resulting in poor blood circulation. Diabetes also interferes with the proper functioning of the immune system. Due to these two reasons wounds or injuries can take a long time to heal in diabetic patients.
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands and feet – One of the several complications of diabetes is nerve damage or neuropathy, especially in the extremities of the body. The beginning of neuropathy is often characterized by a tingling sensation or lack of sensation (numbness) in the hands and feet.
- Frequent yeast infections – Bacteria and fungi can thrive in a high glucose environment, because such an environment acts as an excellent culture medium. Since the immune system fails to effectively fight against these micro organisms, it leads to infections.
- Fruity scented breath –The burning of fat for producing energy produces ketones and acetones as the byproducts, which are responsible for imparting a fruity odor to the breath of diabetic patients.
The other symptoms of diabetes include
- Irritability and mood swings
- Head ache
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
Now that you know the various signs of diabetes, if at all you experience one or more of these symptoms, do not hesitate to consult a doctor and get your blood tested as early as possible. Early detection of this disease and appropriate treatment are the two most important factors that can help to effectively manage this serious disorder and prevent further complications.