Diabetes mellitus is a common condition that affects the body’s use of glucose. The CDC estimates that over 400 million people suffer from the illness worldwide. Chronic cases of diabetes are divided into two: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. There are also some reversible conditions of diabetes, such as prediabetes and gestational diabetes, which can be eliminated with the right treatment.

Causes of Diabetes

The exact causes of diabetes are unknown. However, researchers believe that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Regardless of the exact cause of diabetes, the condition is characterized by a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream because the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin.

Diabetes symptoms

Regardless of the type, diabetic patients have excess blood sugar levels, which, if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues. Therefore, it is critical to recognize diabetes symptoms early and seek treatment.

In patients with type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to be more severe and manifest themselves quickly from the onset. Conversely, the onset of type 2 diabetes tends to be more gradual with only mild, often unrecognizable symptoms.

The typical early signs of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that people should keep an eye out for include:

  1. Increased urination frequency: High blood sugar levels send kidneys into overdrive as they try to filter the blood and rid it of excess sugar. This process leads to an urge to urinate more frequently, especially at night. So, if you are making more trips than usual to the bathroom at night, it might be wise to check your blood sugar levels.
  2. Unintended weight loss: Patients who have diabetes are not able to use blood sugar as effectively for energy. As a result, their body starts burning fat, leading to unexpected weight loss.
  3. Constant hunger and thirst: People with diabetes tend to feel hungry constantly regardless of how recently they have eaten because not enough of the glucose they consume is moved from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Additionally, they feel more thirsty than usual due to their body losing more water as a result of frequent urination.
  4. Fatigue: Because of insufficient glucose in their body cells, diabetes patients have lower energy levels and often report feeling very tired and exhausted. Feelings of exhaustion can also stem from dehydration resulting from frequent urination and kidney damage due to diabetes.
  5. Skin discolouration: People with diabetes are at a high risk of suffering from a skin condition known as acanthosis nigricans, which causes skin discolouration on the creases of the neck, armpit or groin. These patches of dark skin may feel soft and are caused by insulin resistance.
  6. Blurry vision: High sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the eye and distort the lenses leading to blurred and weakened eyesight. Patients who do not seek treatment risk damaging their eyes, which may become more severe over time and even lead to permanent loss of vision.
  7. Slow healing of wounds and sores: High blood sugar levels can also lead to damaged nerves and blood vessels in the body leading to poor blood circulation, consequently impairing the body’s ability to heal. As a result, even minor wounds and cuts can take weeks or even months to heal, increasing the chances of infection.
  8. Numbness or pain in hands and feet: Nerve damage caused by diabetes can lead to pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands and feet.
  9. Infections: Getting gum, skin, or genital infections frequently is another common sign of diabetes.

Differing diabetes symptoms in men and women

It is vital to note that diabetes symptoms can, at times, manifest differently in men and women. Men with diabetes might experience:

  • Heart disease
  • A hyperactive bladder
  • Incontinence, i.e. leaking urine
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Retrograde ejaculation, i.e. semen released into the bladder

Women with diabetes symptoms are likely to exhibit:

  • Trouble conceiving and pregnancy complications
  • Lower sex drive
  • Longer and heavier periods
  • Yeast and urinary tract infections
  • Weight gain during menopause

Regardless of gender, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can develop at any age. However, type 1 diabetes often starts during childhood and teen years, whereas type 2 diabetes has a much later average onset.

Diagnosis and treatment for diabetes

It is critical to keep an eye out for diabetes symptoms and seek treatment immediately if any possible diabetes symptoms are noticed. If diabetes is diagnosed early by an endocrinologist, effective treatment can begin before the body suffers severe effects. Leading endocrinologists suggest that people with the following risk factors should get screened and tested for diabetes:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Older than 35 years
  • Diagnosis of prediabetes
  • An above-average body mass index

The diagnostic tests for diabetes recommended by endocrinologists include:

  • Glycated haemoglobin (A1C) test
  • Random blood sugar test
  • Fasting blood sugar test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test
  • Urine test (for people with type 1 diabetes)

The diabetes treatment recommended by an endocrinologist depends on the type of diabetes a person has. The following therapies are most prevalent:

  1. Blood sugar monitoring
  2. Frequent insulin injections or insulin pump
  3. Oral medicines
  4. Pancreas transplant (for severe type 1 diabetes)
  5. Healthy eating habits
  6. Physical activity

Preventing diabetes

While type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented, type 2 diabetes can be avoided in some cases by practising the following:

  • A healthy diet low in fat and high in fibre content
  • Consistent physical activity
  • Healthy weight loss