Warning Signs Of Diabetes And Early Symptoms

A newly published report in 2014 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated that diabetes now affects almost 10% of the American population. This is not significantly different from previous figures. What is concerning though is that 1 out of 4 of diabetic Americans are not even aware that they have the disease. It is not well known that diabetes in the very early stages is largely asymptomatic. Hallmark symptoms like frequent urination and increased thirst is practically non-existent. But the damage caused by high blood glucose levels starts from the outset although the effects are only felt years or decades thereafter.

Identifying diabetes as early as possible is literally a matter of life and death. Many diabetic complications can be life threatening. Some can arise within hours and end with fatal consequences. Others develop gradually over long periods of time and eventually leads to fatalities. There is no known cure for type 2 diabetes mellitus, the most common type of diabetes that develops in adulthood. Although modern medicine can effectively treat and manage the condition, the key to combating the disease still lies in prevention.

Remember that the more severe complications arise with untreated diabetes but even if your diabetes is well managed you may still develop conditions like diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease), diabetic retinopathy (eye disease) and diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). Diabetes also significantly increases the risk of heart disease.

glucose meter

Diabetes Warning Signs

Risk factors means that a person has a greater chance of developing a condition if they have one or more factors that is known to increase the risk. This does not always apply though. A person with no known risk factors can develop a disease, while a person with several risk factors may not develop the disease. Being at risk of developing diabetes can help a person identify the potential problem and take measures to prevent the condition.

These risk factors should essentially serve as warning signs that diabetes may be occur at some point in life. Whether it will be sooner rather than later cannot be accurately ascertained. Some risk factors are modifiable meaning that it can be changed. But other risk factors are non-modifiable in that it cannot be changed. Even if non-modifiable risk factors are present, diabetes can be prevented or at least delayed with dietary and lifestyle measures.

Having Relatives With Diabetes

If you have a first-degree relative with diabetes then you are at a significantly greater risk of developing diabetes. A first-degree relative is a parent or sibling. Studies have shown that having one diabetic parent can increase your risk of developing diabetes by 40%. It is slightly higher if it is your mother who is diabetic. The risk increases by as much as 70% if both parents are diabetic.

Reference: Genetic screening for the risk of type 2 diabetes

Race And Advancing Age

There is a racial factor when it comes to the risk of diabetes but the exact reason is not conclusively known. African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Asians have a higher risk of developing diabetes than Caucasians. Age is another factor. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older and it more commonly arises in people who are 40 years and older.

Reference : Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Being Overweight Or Obese

Familial predisposition, race and age are non-modifiable risk factors. One of the most significant of the modifiable risk factors is body weight. People who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of developing diabetes. Even just a little extra abdominal fat although your body mass index (BMI) is normal, increases your diabetes risk since body fat affects insulin resistance.

Little To No Physical Activity

People who are sedentary are at a greater risk of diabetes than people who are active. Exercising regularly for approximately 150 minutes per week (5 sessions of 30 minutes) can reduce the risk of diabetes. However, even people who are more physically active in the day without a dedicated exercise regimen are at a lower risk than people who are not physically active.

Had Diabetes During Pregnancy

Gestational diabetes is a condition that may only be temporary. The diabetes may reverse after childbirth although it could continue lifelong. Nevertheless a woman who had gestational diabetes is at a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life even if the blood glucose levels return to normal after delivery. Giving birth to larger babies (over 9lb or 4kg) also increase diabetes risk.

High Blood Pressure And Cholesterol

Many people know that long term and poorly controlled diabetes mellitus increases the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and elevated blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels. However, it also works the other way around. Having hypertension or high cholesterol and triglyceride levels increases the risk of diabetes.

Women With Polycystic Ovaries

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the leading causes of difficulty conceiving in women. But this condition does not only involve the female reproductive system. Women with PCOS have insulin resistance. It increases the risk of diabetes in life. Currently it is not known whether the insulin resistance may in fact be responsible for PCOS or whether it is the other way around.

Early Diagnosis Of Diabetes

Routine screening for diabetes is an effective way to diagnose the disease very early in its development. These tests for measuring blood glucose levels may include:

  • Glucose tolerance test where a person is given a measured glucose solution to drink and the before and after blood glucose levels are then compared.
  • HbA1C test which measures the amount of glucose in red blood cells that accumulates over a 3 month period or longer.

Both of these tests are very effective in diagnosing diabetes. However, other tests could also be helpful although not always reliable.

  • Fasting blood glucose test measures the blood glucose levels after at least 8 hours of abstaining from food and drink (usually in the morning).
  • Random blood glucose test measures the glucose levels in the blood at any time in the day irrespective of prior fasting or eating.

When the results show abnormally high blood glucose levels although it may not be high enough to be classified as diabetes, then this is known as impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or pre-diabetes. It is a reversible state that is the prelude to full-blown diabetes which may arise with months or just a few years. In other words, pre-diabetes is curable to some extent while diabetes mellitus is not.

The problem does not always lie with the medical tests that are available but rather with the awareness about regular screening. Despite the advice of doctors and health authorities, most people do not opt to go for these tests until the first symptoms or complications of diabetes arise. People who are at a high risk for developing diabetes should go for routine screening every second year, if not every year. Given the prevalence of diabetes these days, it is advisable that every adult consider routine diabetes screening.

Early Symptoms Of Diabetes

The problem with type 2 diabetes is that you may never know that you have it for months and even years. In the early stages, there are practically no symptoms. As the condition progresses or if the blood glucose levels become very high, symptoms may then start to appear. These symptoms are not always directly indicative of diabetes. Many other conditions may present with these symptoms so it can be misleading.

Fatigue, unexplained weight loss and extreme hunger are symptoms of diabetes. It may be present with no other hallmark diabetes symptoms like frequent urination and increased thirst. Slow wound healing and repeated infections anywhere in the body are also early signs of diabetes. Due to these vague symptoms sometimes being the only symptoms present at the outset, it is important to rely on routine diabetes screening for early diagnosis of diabetes.


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