Knowing signs and symptoms of diabetes can help you spot this disease which affects more than 400 million people throughout the world, letting you know when you or someone in your life should seek medical treatment.
Diabetes is a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. It occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by special cells in the pancreas called islets. It is the “key” to open your cells allowing sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to enter. Your body uses glucose for energy. According to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, more than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Worldwide, more than 422 million people have diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 are the most common forms of the disease, but there are also other kinds, such as gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
Type 1 diabetes
Previously known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 is the most severe form of the disease. About 5% of people with diabetes are diagnosed with type 1. It is called juvenile diabetes because it usually develops in children and teenagers. However, people of all ages can develop type 1 diabetes. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. Once the insulin-producing cells are destroyed, the person can no longer produce their own insulin. Those that are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes must be treated through a daily regimen of insulin therapy.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs very quickly. Look for these symptoms:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Rapid and unexplained weight loss
- Extreme weakness and fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
- Itchy skin
Type 2 diabetes
The most common form of diabetes is type 2. It is also called adult-onset diabetes and usually develops after age 35. Younger people can also develop type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes are able to produce some of their own insulin. However, it usually isn’t enough.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are similar to those of type 1 diabetes, but the onset of type 2 is usually slower and the symptoms are not as noticeable. This is why many people mistakenly overlook the warning signs of type 2 diabetes.These symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck
Risk factors of type 2 diabetes
Because type 2 diabetes is harder to identify, it is important to know the key risk factors of the disease. Factors that may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes include:
- Weight — Being overweight or obese is the main cause of type 2 diabetes.
- Fat distribution — Storing fat mainly in your abdomen instead of your hips and thighs indicates a greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
• For men, this could translate to having a waist circumference above 40 inches.
• For women, this could translate to having a waist measurement above 35 inches.
- Inactivity — The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Family history — Your risk of type 2 diabetes increases if your parent or sibling has the disease.
- Race and ethnicity — Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian people, and Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white people.
- Blood lipid levels — An increased risk is associated with low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides.
- Age — The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45.
- Prediabetes — Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Left untreated, prediabetes often progresses to type 2 diabetes.
- Pregnancy-related risks — Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases if you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant or if you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms).
- Polycystic ovary syndrome — Having polycystic ovary syndrome — a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity — increases the risk of diabetes.
Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck — This condition often indicates insulin resistance.
How can you decrease your chances of developing diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is often developed because of genetics. Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. However, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by making healthier lifestyle choices. Here are some tips to help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
- Exercise regularly
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Eat a healthy diet
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure.
If you experience any of the symptoms of type 1 or type 2 diabetes, then you should consult your doctor.
Eating healthier can help avoid or minimize the effects and onset of type 2 diabetes. While it can be confusing about what to eat, all good diets include these healthy principles.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Eat healthy proteins that are lower in harmful fats, such as lean meats and vegetable-based sources of protein.
- Avoid sugars and processed foods.
The American Diabetes Association has many healthy tips, guidelines and recipes to help you eat better. Again, if you are experiencing signs of type 2 diabetes, or type 1 diabetes, see a health care doctor.
When to see a doctor
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or if you have any of the risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes, it is important to discuss with your primary care doctor. He or she will be able to determine if there are any tests that they need to run or health monitoring they should put into place.
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