Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure or treatment, and it that I wholeheartedly believe. In this article, we will be focusing on the signs and symptoms of diabetes in order to contribute to the understanding and awareness of the epidemic, thus help in preventing complications and lowering the risks.
The first known mentioned of diabetes was made in 1552 BCE on the Ebers Papyrus by an Egyptian physician Hesy-Ra of the 3rd Dynasty, which was a list of remedies to combat frequent urination. In spite of its appearance, treatment for diabetes – insulin – was only discovered not quite 100 years ago, which was a major medical breakthrough in the history of diabetes. Since then, there have been no major breakthroughs in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, while the number is continuously growing.
Today, we have a lot more knowledge of the symptoms, causes, and especially yet the treatment for diabetes. We owe the greatest gratitude to the commitment, effort and devotion of many scientists for the many experiments that had been completed to bring us to where we are today with the saving the lives of those affected by diabetes.
Despite the great amount of information made available by many associations and government, it never seems to be enough to keep everyone well aware of the danger they may face being diagnosed with any types diabetes nor the behaviors or causation of their condition. In fact, diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2015, with 79,535 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death, and a total of 252,806 death certificates listing diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death.
The term diabetes, medically known as Diabetes Mellitus (DM), is defined by the World Health Organization as a metabolic disorder of multiple etiologies characterized by chronic hyperglycemia with disturbances of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism resulting from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both.
World Health Organization recognized two principle forms of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2, and at the same time mentioned other specific type of diabetes as well. Type 1 diabetes is also previously known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, a hormone that plays a major role in metabolism. The second and more common type of diabetes is Type 2 diabetes (also formerly named non-insulin-dependent) which results from the inability of the body to respond properly to the action of insulin produced by pancreas. According to World Health Organization, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide, and occurs most frequently in adults. Both types of diabetes are stated by WHO to be caused by mutations in more than one gene, as well as by environmental factors. Gestational diabetes is a specific type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It is reported that the risk of complications increases for women with gestational diabetes during pregnancy and delivery. Both mother and the child are at great risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future. Unlike the other two types, gestational diabetes does not cause any symptom. Diagnosis is done through prenatal screening.
People with diabetes or high blood sugar are likely to suffer long term damage, dysfunction and failure of various organs. Long term effects of diabetes may include potential blindness, kidney failure, foot ulcers, sexual dysfunction, as well as higher risk of cardiovascular, peripheral vascular and cerebrovascular disease.
A case of diabetes has been rising since 1980 to 422 million adults with overweight and obesity being the driving factors. WHO estimated in 2015 that 1.6 million deaths were caused by diabetes. An article posted on the website of Harvard T.H. CHAN, School of Public Health website in April 2106 mentioned that if the trends continue, over 700 million adults worldwide would be affected by diabetes in 2025.
Increasing number of diabetes cases affects not only developed but also low- and middle income countries. While the number of cases is growing, a total number of global economic costs of diabetes in 2014 had been estimated to be approximately US$612 billion. In 2012, the United States spent somewhere around US$245 billion. Source
Treatment of diabetes may involve proper diet and changes in physical activities. To lower the risks of having any types of diabetes, it is suggested to avoid smoking and maintain a healthy diet by avoiding food that is high in sugar and saturated fat.
Early diagnosis of any type of diabetes may also lower the risk of disease complications. Specifically, the risk of a person with Type 2 diabetes suffering cardiovascular disease reduces if diagnosis is made in earlier stage.
Below are some common signs and symptoms which may indicate that you are at risk of having diabetes. However, it should be mentioned that certain symptom of Type 2 diabetes could be rather too mild to be noticed, where gestational diabetes does not normally show any symptom at all.
Most common symptoms seen in DM patients
1. Frequent urination
With diabetes, your body is unable to regulate the blood sugar level, the excess sugar hence causing your kidney to work harder, and more fluid to pass through kidney thus increasing urination frequency which may also lead to dehydration. Frequent urination may also be a result of your attempt to quench your thirst.
2. Increased thirst
You may notice increased thirst or polydipsia. The excessive sugar in bloodstream makes kidney produce more urine. Resulting from increase production of urine are the loss of fluid and dehydration, and so your thirst increases. Persistent excessive thirst can be a sign of diabetes. If the sign presents, you are recommended to take the test and screening to confirm and lower further complications.
3. Extreme fatigue and Increased hunger
You may also experience extreme fatigue and increased hunger (or polyphagia). With lack of insulin or insulin resistance, glucose in the blood cannot enter the cells. As a result, your body cannot convert the food into energy. The lack of energy then causes your body to feel extremely tired and hungry for more food to gain the energy.
In the attempt to satisfy the hunger, a person may end up having excessive food intake, which will not get rid of the hungry feeling of polyphagia, but will just increase the already high blood glucose levels.
4. Dry mouth
You may get sign that your mouth is dry or xerostomia. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes show this symptom. According to the American Diabetes Association, dry mouth experienced by people with diabetes could be the result of medication side effects and high blood sugar level. Dry mouth might just also be the cause for increased thirst, or a result of frequent urination.
People with diabetes often experience headaches owing to changes of the blood sugar level.
6. Blurry vision
Following headaches, a person with diabetes may also experience blurry vision as consequence to high blood sugar level. The rise of the blood sugar level causes the lens of the eye to swell, which changes the ability to see. This symptom may reverse when the sugar level returns to its normal state.
7. Unplanned weight loss
Notice if you begin to lose weight. Unplanned weight loss is a common symptom for Type 1 diabetes. Again, this concerns the high blood sugar level. This may also caused by excessive urination as well as the inability of our body to get glucose from the blood and turn it into energy. Consequently, our body begins to burn the fat and muscle to create the energy for survival.
8. Cut/bruise that slowly or does not heal
Cuts and bruises of a diabetic person are not likely to heal or it may take a long time and proper care to heal. The cause may link to the narrowed down blood vessels, stiffened the arteries, and declined function of red blood cells, which are all caused by the high blood sugar level. When the blood vessels are narrowed, the blood and oxygen will not be able to reach the wound and give the acceptable nutrients and oxygen for it to heal. As a result, your body’s healing effects may be slower and less effective.
9. Numbness and tingling in hands
Numbness and tingling in hands may presence itself as a sign of high level of blood glucose. For continued period, the high levels of glucose levels in the bloodstream may ruin the nerves. Accordingly, this brings diabetic neuropathy. Then, it causes the most upsetting warning sign of diabetes. It may occur as muscular cramping or weakness, and pain at night. People with diabetes may also experience burning sensation in the hands and feet.
10. Sexual dysfunction
Sexual dysfunction occurs because of damaged blood vessel and nerves caused by high blood sugar level. About 35 to 75% of men who have diabetes may face erectile dysfunction. In order to obtain an erection, men do not only need to be sexually stimulated, but also need healthy nerves and blood vessels. On the other hand, women may get vaginal dryness which leads to painful intercourse. In short, they may have difficulty reaching orgasm because of the loss of sensation in the genital area.
11. Black patches on the neck
You may have black patches on neck or acanthosis ingrincans. The high level of insulin in the blood causes skin cells to reproduce fast. It may be appeared as dark patches onto your neck, armpits, inside the elbows and behind knees. In short, the black patches on neck or acanthosis nigricans prove the high level of insulin in the blood in term of diabetes.
12. Fruity breath
It is a sign that you might have diabetes of certain type if you have fruity breath. The happens as a result of high level of ketones produced by your body during the process of excessive fat burning following lack of glucose in the body cells. This may lead to building up of ketones in your blood and urine. Excessive amount of ketones in your blood and urine can be toxic and thus causing a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If such symptom is present, you are advised to seek medical care straight away, as this may be the first sign of Type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms seen in acute complications of DM
13. Rapid breathing
You may notice that you start to breathe rapidly. Rapid breathing is triggered by ketoacidosis. When experience this, you should try to look for medical care immediately, as it is key to avoid further complication of the condition. In fact, diabetic acidosis stays a life-threatening disorder, and so some may need to be hospitalized and treated with fluids and insulin.
14. Mood swing
Obviously, you may get mood swings. You should discuss and consult with your doctor and test diabetes if you experience swing of emotions. Changes in your mood could in fact be hard to explain. However, what can be told is that like your car, you brain needs glucose to function right and do what it is supposed to be doing like keeping your head straight on what you are doing or the way you should be feeling. Obtaining inadequate amount of glucose may lead to this disorder. Source
These experiences that we mentioned above are only few of the most common symptoms of diabetes that may appear. Signs of diabetes vary and are not strictly limited to what we listed Different Type of diabetes may present different signs and symptoms. If you suspect any sign, it is best that you take it to your doctor or expert in diabetes to consult and screen for diabetes to be sure. The key to trigger any disease is to recognize that we are having it at the earliest stage so that measures and necessary procedures can be taken to prevent future complication that may endanger the person and their family. Diabetes is one of the most common causes of death. It is important to have regular check-up especially if you are from a family with diabetes history.
Last but not least, diabetes is not only for rich people, but also poor. Paying attention of diabetes should have to be careful indeed because right now there have been created many fast-food shops and stores and/or mixed delicious ingredients of food to lure and attract teenager to eat over daily calories intake. The fast-food stores and other involvements truly make it more and more for teenagers to have more calories than daily calories intake. Accordingly, it may bring him or her to be overweight and obesity and so it may easily lead to drop into type 2 diabetes at any time. Therefore, the prevention of the diabetes should be public awareness of all being started from family, community, relevant stakeholders and those who have experienced about this disease. This is only one vital prevention and prophylactics of diabetes at the future.