Understanding Diabetes Symptoms: Your Comprehensive Guide

Key Takeaways:

1. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes are a significant global health concern, responsible for a majority of deaths worldwide.

2. Diabetes, characterized by elevated blood glucose levels, comes in different forms, including type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

3. Recognizing the symptoms of diabetes, such as frequent urination, increased thirst, fatigue, slow wound healing, and increased hunger, is essential for early diagnosis and treatment.

4. Managing diabetes involves both non-modifiable risk factors like family history and age, as well as modifiable risk factors like weight, physical activity, blood pressure, diet, and alcohol consumption.

More and more people have been suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in recent years. Globally, they cause 41 million deaths yearly, equivalent to 71% of all deaths.

Diabetes is one of these NCDs whose prevalence is on the rise. According to WHO, about 8.7% of the population between age 20 and 70 is diabetic. With such high prevalence rates, you must be aware of diabetes symptoms to seek help at the right time. So, let's discuss diabetes in detail.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus or Sugar is a chronic condition with elevated blood glucose levels. Someone with diabetes either doesn't make enough insulin (type 1) or their body stops responding to it (type 2).

A lack of insulin or insulin resistance affects the cells' ability to absorb glucose, increasing blood glucose levels. Without proper control, diabetes can damage your heart, eyes, blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys.

The normal fasting glucose levels are between 70 mg/dL and 99 mg/dL. Levels between 100 to 125 mg/dL indicate pre-diabetes. If your fasting blood glucose levels exceed 126 mg/dL on two occasions, doctors diagnose you with diabetes.

Also read: The Fasting Blood Sugar Test

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes:

1. Type 1 Diabetes

The pancreas produces insulin through cells called β-cells. In this type 1 diabetes, your body's immune system attacks your own pancreatic β-cells. This causes them to be unable to produce insulin.

It usually affects young adults and children. The symptoms manifest suddenly and can become life-threatening. The rate of β-cell destruction varies from person to person. It may be relatively rapid in some individuals and slower in others.

2. Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes form a resistance to the effects of insulin. Often called adult-onset diabetes, this type of diabetes occurs mainly in adults. If you're overweight, not very active, older, and your family has a history of diabetes, you're more likely to get type 2 diabetes.

It may cause long-term complications in blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. It can significantly cause morbidity and death due to cardiovascular diseases.

3. Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes (GD) is the term used for diabetes that develops during pregnancy. After the delivery of the baby, this type of diabetes usually disappears. Kids born to mothers with GD have a higher chance of obesity and type 2 diabetes when they grow up.

Difference between Type 1 and 2 Diabetes

image representing mechanism of development of type one diabetes on the left and type 2 diabetes on the right
Image credit: Pancreatic Beta-cell Dysfunction in Type 2 Diabetes - Scientific Figure on ResearchGate

Many do not understand the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Hence, here's a simple table distinguishing between type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

Characteristic Type 1 Diabetes Type 2 Diabetes
Cause Autoimmune response destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas Insulin resistance or reduced insulin production
Age of onset Usually diagnosed in children and young adults Typically diagnosed in adults, but can occur at any age
Treatment Requires insulin injections or insulin pump therapy May be managed with oral medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes insulin therapy
Risk factors Genetic predisposition, family history, environmental triggers Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, family history, age, ethnicity
Symptoms Increased thirst, more urination, weight loss Increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing wounds, frequent infections

Diabetes Symptoms That Indicate You Should Consult A Doctor

Pay attention to all the following signs. If you have any of these symptoms, it could mean you have diabetes. So it will be good to consult with your doctor about them.

  1. Frequent Urination and Increased Thirst
    If you need to urinate frequently, especially at night, speak to your doctor. It could indicate diabetes.
  2. Blurred vision
    High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the eyes. This may cause blurry vision as the first sign of diabetes. Diabetes patients often experience dry and irritated eyes as their condition progresses.
  3. Fatigue
    If you're always tired, talk to your doctor. People with diabetes tend to have more fatigue than those without the condition.
  4. Slow wound healing
    Slow wound healing is another common sign of diabetes. This symptom often occurs when blood sugar levels are high.
  5. Increased Hunger
    If you have diabetes, you may be hungry more frequently than usual.
Image showing different symptoms of Diabetes

Risk Factors for Diabetes

Various factors make you more susceptible to developing diabetes. Let's briefly explore these risk factors.

  1. Non-Modifiable Risk Factors
    You cannot modify these risk factors. They include-
    • Family History
      Having relatives with diabetes makes you more likely to develop it. Suppose you have a parent with type 2 diabetes. In that case, your chances of getting diabetes are about 40%, which increases if both parents have diabetes.
    • Age
      Diabetes is more likely to occur as you age. People aged 35 and above are at a higher risk.
    • Pregnancy
      If you have developed diabetes during pregnancy, you are more at risk of acquiring diabetes again later in life. About 50% of females with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes in the future.
  2. Modifiable Risk Factors
    You can avoid these risk factors by taking specific actions. Here are some modifiable risk factors and how to control them.
    • ‍Weight
      If you are obese or overweight, you have a higher risk of developing diabetes. You can significantly reduce the risk by losing 5-10% of your body weight and exercising regularly. And it will drop even more as you lose more weight.‍
    • Physical Activity
      If your activity levels are low, you risk developing diabetes. You should aim to do 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise each week. Along with muscle training twice a week.‍
    • Blood Pressure
      Having untreated high blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. If you have diabetes, you should maintain your blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg.‍
    • Diet
      An unhealthy diet may lead to diabetes in high-risk individuals.‍
    • Alcohol
      Heavy alcohol drinking can impair insulin production. Hence, you should moderate your alcohol intake to one drink per day for women or two for men.
An chart resprenting risk factors of diabetes
RIsk factors for diabetes chart

FAQs

People often ask us various questions about diabetes mellitus. Hence, let us discuss some of the most common and relevant questions here.

What is the difference between diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus?

People often get confused between diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Though they have some similar symptoms, they are two very different conditions. Let's understand their difference.

Characteristic Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes Insipidus
Cause Not enough insulin or the body can't use it well Problems with a hormone called ADH that controls urine
Type Different types like Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes Different kinds like Central or Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus
Effect on Blood Sugar Sugar levels in blood go too high because of insulin issues Blood sugar stays normal, but you pee a lot, leading to dehydration
Symptoms
Feeling super thirsty, peeing a lot, tiredness, trouble with eyesight
Always feeling thirsty, going to the bathroom a lot, feeling tired
Treatment
Insulin shots, pills, lifestyle changes, checking blood sugar levels
Medicine to replace or copy ADH, drinking lots of fluids, fixing the problem causing it
Complications
Heart problems, kidney issues, nerve damage, eye problems, etc.
Dehydration, problems with kidneys, feeling tired a lot. 

Is curd good for diabetes?

Yes, curd is good for diabetes. It is rich in probiotics, proteins, and calcium. Hence, it promotes satiety, regulates blood sugar levels, and supports bone health.

Curd has a glycemic index of about 28, which is low. Hence, it will not affect your blood glucose levels significantly.

However, opting for plain, unsweetened curd and avoiding flavored varieties with added sugars is essential.

Also read: The best chart for blood sugar control

Can diabetics donate blood?

Yes, diabetics can donate blood.

To donate blood, you should have your blood sugar under control. Also, you should meet other eligibility criteria set by blood donation centers or organizations.

You should make sure your blood sugar levels are within the normal range while donating blood. Also, always tell the donation staff if you have diabetes or take any medicine.

Conclusion

Diabetes is not a condition that you can take lightly. Even though it is troublesome, you can manage it well with an early diagnosis. Therefore, if you are showing diabetes symptoms, you must book an appointment to visit your doctor.

Even if you don't have diabetes yet, follow this advice to prevent getting it.

The best way to prevent or manage diabetes is to take the right actions. But what are the right actions?

Aware has the answers!

The Aware Health Rewards app provides daily action steps as part of your 90-day care plan. These action steps will guide you in reaching your diabetes management goals one day at a time.

Make your diabetes management easy!

About the author: 

Lucky Mehtani
, B. Pharm, merges his healthcare expertise with a passion for writing to enhance India's heart health. Through insightful blogs, he provides well-researched information on managing Diabetes, Hypertension, and High Cholesterol, aiming to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
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