Early Signs of Diabetes and Learn How to Manage It

Early Signs of Diabetes and Learn How to Manage It


By Diane Hwang

Diabetes is a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can often develop without presenting any noticeable symptoms. In fact, many individuals remain unaware of their high blood sugar until they receive a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, which likely means they have had the condition for some time. Identifying your risk of diabetes early can help you manage the condition more effectively and with less stress. A delayed diagnosis can be dangerous, so it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the early signs of diabetes. If you suspect that you may have diabetes, seek medical assistance promptly.

What are the Causes of Diabetes?

Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, which is a gland located behind the stomach. When food is digested and enters the bloodstream, insulin allows glucose to be transported from the blood to cells, where it is metabolized for energy. In individuals with diabetes, the body is unable to convert glucose into energy, either due to an insufficient amount of insulin or the ineffectiveness of the insulin produced.

There are no lifestyle modifications that can decrease the risk of Type 1 diabetes. However, the risk of Type 2 diabetes can be reduced by leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping your weight in check.

Your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes may be higher if:

  • You have a family history of Type 2 diabetes.
  • You have a history of high blood pressure.
  • You belong to Asian, Black African, or African Caribbean ethnic groups.
  • You are overweight or obese.
  • You do not maintain a balanced diet.
  • You have been using certain medications, such as steroids for an extended period.
  • You experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Types of Diabetes

First, it is important to understand the different types of diabetes, which are classified into two main categories: Type 1 and Type 2. If you have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, it means that your pancreas is unable to produce insulin. As a result, monitor your glucose levels on a regular basis and administer insulin injections at specific times determined by your doctor.

On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it indicates that your body is producing insulin but not in sufficient amounts. Consequently, monitoring your glucose levels is crucial. Although Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, it can be effectively managed through a combination of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adherence to the prescribed medication from your doctor.

There's also a condition called non-diabetic hyperglycemia or pre-diabetes. Some individuals exhibit blood sugar levels that exceed the normal range but are not elevated enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Those with non-diabetic hyperglycemia face a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes; however, this risk can be mitigated through lifestyle modifications.

If you have non-diabetic hyperglycemia, you may qualify for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Program. This initiative assists participants in making enduring lifestyle changes and has demonstrated effectiveness in preventing Type 2 diabetes. It is also advised that people with non-diabetic hyperglycemia undergo an annual blood test to keep track of their blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Most Type 1 diabetes diagnoses occur in young children, typically between the ages of 4 and 14. It is important to note that these symptoms can also be indicative of undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.

  • Excessive Thirst or Hunger

In individuals with diabetes, the kidneys work overtime to decrease the sugar levels in the bloodstream. This leads to frequent urination, which is another symptom, and excessive thirst as a compensatory mechanism. Additionally, due to the lack of insulin or the body's inability to utilize the insulin produced, the absorption of nutrients from food is hindered. Consequently, this can result in excessive hunger.

  • Bedwetting

Frequent urination can result in bedwetting, especially for children.

  • Fatigue

This is in direct relation to being unable to extract nutrients from food consumed. Even with frequent good night’s sleep, the body is unable to find the energy to be alert and awake.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 is not only far more common but can also be treated with lifestyle and nutrition changes. Common symptoms include:

  • Weight Loss

Similar to excessive hunger and fatigue, weight loss is a result of the body’s inability to gain nutrients and energy from the food you consume.

  • Blurred Vision

Excess sugar in the bloodstream can damage the sensitive vessels in your eyes, thus causing blurred vision. Frequent alterations in your eyeglass prescription or vision may also indicate the presence of diabetes.

  • Yeast Infections

Excess sugar can prompt yeast to flourish in any moist area, including the armpits, mouth, and throat.

Do Men and Women Experience Similar Symptoms of Diabetes?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that males are more susceptible to receiving a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis at a comparatively lower weight. This phenomenon can be attributed to the tendency of men accumulating fat around their abdominal region, which poses a significant risk factor. Furthermore, males with Type 2 diabetes have an increased probability of developing heart disease, which may contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED). The CDC reports that diabetic men are three times more prone to ED. Additionally, nerve damage due to diabetes can result in:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Overactivity of the bladder, particularly at nighttime.
  • Retrograde ejaculation, where semen enters the bladder instead of being expelled.
  • Involuntary urine leakage.

On the other hand, females with Type 2 diabetes face additional challenges. The CDC indicates that diabetes can elevate the risk of heart disease in women by approximately four times, whereas it doubles the risk for men. Women also experience a heightened risk of other complications related to diabetes, such as vision loss, depression, and kidney disease. Women coping with Type 2 diabetes may also encounter:

  • Prolonged or more intense menstrual periods.
  • Weight gain throughout menopause.
  • Difficulties conceiving or complications during gestation.
  • Recurring yeast or urinary tract infections.
  • A diminished libido.

When Should You Consult with a GP for Diabetes?

If you notice these common symptoms of diabetes, it is essential to consult your doctor right away. These symptoms include:

  • Encountering itching around the genital area or recurrent thrush infections.
  • Feeling extremely fatigued.
  • Experiencing excessive thirst.
  • Losing weight and muscle mass.
  • Urinating more frequently than usual, especially during the night.
  • Experiencing blurred vision.

Diabetes can lead to significant changes in a person's body. For instance, they may experience unquenchable thirst, even after consuming several liters of water daily. Furthermore, some individuals might find themselves unable to go for an hour without needing to use the restroom.

Look Out for Diabetic Foot Problems

Diabetes can adversely affect the nerves in your feet, leading to a loss of sensation and reduced blood supply. Consequently, you might not notice if your foot is injured or sore, and wounds may take longer to heal. This can result in ulcers, infections, and in severe cases, even amputations. Adults with diabetes should have their feet examined annually by a healthcare professional. If you observe any issues with your feet, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional without delay.

Arrange a Diabetic Eye Screening Appointment

For people with diabetes who are 12 years of age or older, it is recommended to undergo regular eye examinations. One of the risks associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, a condition that may result in vision loss if not addressed. A screening, which typically consists of a 30-minute assessment of the eye's interior, helps identify diabetic retinopathy and allows for early detection. This enables more effective intervention and, in numerous cases, can prevent vision deterioration or minimize the progression of the condition. If you encounter any difficulties with your vision, it is essential to seek medical advice right away, rather than waiting for your upcoming screening appointment.

Simple Lifestyle Changes that Help Manage Your Diabetes

Regardless of whether your diabetes diagnosis is Type 1 or Type 2, it is crucial to understand how to manage your condition in order to maintain your health and wellness. Being mindful of your dietary choices and engaging in regular exercise are two highly effective strategies.

Firstly, making changes to your diet is essential. Having diabetes does not mean you can never indulge in a piece of birthday cake, enjoy ice cream, or savor waffles again. However, it does require monitoring ingredients, keeping an eye on portion sizes, and ensuring that your meals are evenly spaced throughout the day.

Living a full and healthy life with diabetes is entirely possible if you commit to staying active. Engaging in activities such as walking, swimming, weightlifting, yoga, biking, or participating in exercise classes at your local gym can all help regulate your blood sugar levels. It is always a good idea to consult with your doctor about the most suitable activities for you, considering your unique health situation.

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