Today, diabetes has grown into one of the most common diseases and the number of diabetic patients is growing fast. About 422 million people have been affected by the disease worldwide and 90% of them suffer from type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes symptoms are easy to detect and is one of the most common types of diabetes.
In the United States, about 30 million people above the age of 18 are suffering from diabetes, which is a serious issue. Uncontrolled diabetes can be fatal and can cause many medical problems like heart diseases, kidney problems, or eye problems.
Diabetes: Definition, Symptoms, and Causes
Diabetes can be defined as a condition when your blood glucose level or blood sugar is higher than the normal range.
Your body contains blood glucose. It is a form of energy that is derived from the food we eat. The pancreas produces insulin which is a hormone that helps the glucose to pass through the blood and reach the cells of our body to form energy.
Sometimes, our body fails to produce enough insulin or is not using insulin properly. The glucose then remains in the blood and does not reach the body cells. As a result, the blood glucose levels get high and we get diabetes.
What are the types of Diabetes?
There are mainly three types of diabetes.
Diabetes Type 1
Diabetes type 1 occurs when your body is unable to produce any insulin. It is more serious than the other types of diabetes and can occur at all ages. It has been estimated that about 10% of people with diabetes suffer from type 1 diabetes.
In diabetes type 1, the immune system of the body destroys the islet cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. These cells are responsible for detecting the blood glucose level and produce insulin accordingly.
Diabetes type 1 can be referred to as an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is a condition when the body destroys its immune system. The reasons are still unknown.
Here the cells that produce insulin are destroyed which rapidly increases the sugar levels in the body. This can cause serious damage to the other parts of the body like kidney, heart, eyes, nerves, etc. In very severe conditions, the patient can even go into a coma and eventually death.
Diabetes type 1 is also known as juvenile diabetes because it mostly occurs in children and teenagers.
Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms
The symptoms of diabetes type 1 are quite similar to type 2 diabetes symptoms. The only difference is the symptoms occur more rapidly and are difficult to overlook due to the severity of the disease. Symptoms include:
- Feeling thirsty all the time.
- Increased urination. Enuresis or wetting in the bed is common in children.
- Rapid weight loss
- An extreme urge for hunger.
- Increased fatigue or weakness.
- Unexplained irritation.
- Blurriness in vision.
- Abdominal pain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Unpleasant odor in breath.
- Itchiness of the skin.
- Mood swings.
- Heavy breathing.
- Dryness of the mouth.
- Frequent urinary tract infections.
- Infections of the skin and vagina.
Symptoms of Juvenile Diabetes
The earliest signs of juvenile diabetes in children is thirst and frequent urination. Other signs of juvenile diabetes include:
- Fatigue and weakness. Due to the absence of insulin, the sugar is not transformed into energy. This makes your child weak and fatigued all the time.
- Eyesight problems. Blood sugar affects eyesight. Your child may experience blurred vision or problems in the eyesight.
- A fruity smell in the breath. Due to a high level of sugar in the blood, there may be a fruity smell in the breath of your child.
- Unexplained weight loss. Since the body is not utilizing the energy due to the breaking down of the sugar, your child may feel extreme hunger. This may result in sudden weight loss.
- Mood swings. Your child may be extremely moody, cranky, and irritated all the time.
- Nausea and vomiting. Children may experience abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Heavy breathing. Due to a lack of energy, children may often feel lethargic and breathe heavily.
Diabetes Type 2
Diabetes type 2 is a condition when the body fails to produce insulin or use it properly. Sugar produces energy which is the fuel that runs your body. Insulin helps in the breaking down of sugar into energy. If the insulin is not produced in the right amount or is not utilized properly, the sugar is not converted into energy and accumulates in the blood. This increases the blood sugar level and causes diabetes type 2. Type 2 diabetes symptoms are mostly seen in adults, but nowadays more children are being affected by the disease. This is mostly due to binge eating and obesity.
The type 2 diabetes cannot be cured completely but can be managed through insulin therapy and medications.
Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms
Type 2 diabetes symptoms are mild and are often hard to detect. The disease progresses gradually and people often fail to understand the symptoms and the severity of the disease.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms include:
- Increase in frequency of urination. In diabetes, the kidneys are working overtime. They try to remove the excess glucose from the blood and thus there is an increase in the frequency of urination, especially in the nights.
- Increase in thirst. Frequent urination drains down the fluid from the body. This can cause dehydration and the body tries to replenish the fluid. This causes an increased urge for thirst.
- Sugar that is broken down is used as energy by the body. In diabetes, the body does not get enough energy. This causes hunger regardless of how often you have eaten.
- Due to a lack of energy, a diabetic can feel tired and fatigued all the time.
- Blurred vision. The sugar in the blood can damage the blood vessels in the eyes. You may experience temporary blurry vision. However, if diabetes is untreated, the sugar can damage the blood vessels of the eyes permanently and this can harm your eyesight or can even cause partial blindness.
- Slow healing of wounds. Excessive glucose in the blood can damage nerves and blood vessels in the body. This can disrupt the blood circulation of the body. This slows down the healing process of wounds and cuts. The slow healing process can cause infection.
- Numbness and tingling sensation in the hands or feet. Diabetes type 2 can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the body. As a result, diabetics may experience numbness or tingling sensation in the arms or feet. This condition commonly known as neuropathy can lead to serious complications in the future.
- Yeast infections. Another significant
type 2 diabetes symptoms include yeast infections. Yeast infections can occur in the mouth, armpits or genital areas. The person may experience redness, itching, or burning sensation in the infected area.
Early detection of type 2 diabetes symptoms can speed up the diagnosis and treatment of the disease and there are better chances of controlling the disease.
Gestational diabetes or GDM occurs during pregnancy and can cause potential damage both to the mother and the unborn child. This type of diabetes usually occurs during the final stages of pregnancy. The symptoms may vanish after delivery of the child but there is a high risk of developing diabetes type 2 after 5 to 10 years of the delivery.
Gestational diabetes can cause:
- Obstructed labor.
- High blood pressure in the mother.
- Low-birth weight of the baby.
- A larger than normal fetus size.
- Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar in the baby immediately after birth.
High blood sugar is common in pregnant women over the age of 45.
The symptoms of gestational diabetes are not noticeable. However, the reasons for gestational diabetes include:
- A prior history of diabetes in the family.
- Previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy.
- Insulin resistance.
Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar levels are higher than the reference range, but not high enough to be designated as diabetes type 2.
People with prediabetes often are reluctant and ignore the symptoms. Prediabetes can later lead to diabetes type 2 if not treated on time. The only remedy is to follow a strict diet, healthy lifestyle, routine exercise, and if required medications.
Following a healthy lifestyle can bring down the blood sugar levels to normal.
Symptoms of Prediabetes
Prediabetes generally does not have any symptoms. If you have started showing symptoms of diabetes, it indicates that you have started developing type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms that suggest that you have progressed from prediabetes to diabetes type 2 include:
- Skin darkening in elbows, knees, knuckles, and armpits.
- Increased thirst.
- Increase in the frequency of urination.
- Blurred vision.
If you believe that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must consult a doctor immediately.
Causes of Diabetes
The causes of diabetes type 1 are unknown. It is an autoimmune disorder where the harmful bacteria destroy the insulin-producing cells.
Causes of Diabetes Type 1:
- A bacterial or viral infection that attacks and kills the insulin-producing cells. The pancreas no longer produces any insulin and as a result, the sugar accumulates in the bloodstream.
- The disease may be genetic.
- A foreign element that may destroy the immunity of the body.
- Toxins in the blood can cause the disease.
In diabetes type 2, the pancreatic cells are incompetent to produce insulin or are unable to use the insulin. People with prediabetes can often get diabetes type 2 in the future.
Causes of diabetes type 2 and prediabetes:
- Overweight is a cause for diabetes type 2 and prediabetes.
- Sedentary lifestyle. An inactive lifestyle with little or no exercise is a probable cause for diabetes type 2 and prediabetes.
- Family history. People with a family history of diabetes can get the disease.
- Poor diet. Binge eating and an unhealthy diet can cause diabetes both in young children and adults.
- After the age of 45, people are at higher risk of developing prediabetes due to decreased activity and obesity.
- Sleep disorder. People with sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea can develop prediabetes or diabetes of type 2.
Pregnancy makes a lot of hormonal changes in the body. The hormones make your body resistant to insulin. The pancreas produces enough insulin to combat the glucose cells, but often it is not enough. This causes diabetes during pregnancy.
Causes of gestational diabetes:
- Family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes.
- PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome can cause diabetes.
- If the weight of the baby is more than 9 pounds.
- The reasons are still unknown why some ethnic groups are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Other Causes of Diabetes
Certain medical conditions can cause diabetes such as:
- PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS can cause obesity and insulin resistance. This may be the prime reason to develop prediabetes or diabetes of type 2.
- Pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, or pancreatectomy may cause potential diabetes in the future.
- Cushing’s syndrome. In Cushing’s syndrome, the body produces an increased amount of the cortisol hormone which can increase blood glucose levels. This may cause diabetes.
- Other hormonal diseases like acromegaly produce an increased amount of growth hormone which can cause insulin resistance. Hyperthyroidism can also cause diabetes.
- Some steroids can induce diabetes.
- Glucagonoma can cause diabetes. This happens when the body produces too much glucagon hormone which disrupts the balance of insulin in the body.
Diabetes in the long-term can cause some serious complications.
- Heart diseases. Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke, coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, or atherosclerosis.
- Neuropathy when the capillaries of the nerves get damaged due to excess sugar coating on the walls.
- Nephropathy or damage to the kidneys. Blood sugar can damage the blood vessels of the kidneys. This can lead to kidney failure. End-stage renal disease can require dialysis or kidney transplant.
- Diabetic retinopathy or damage to the retina of the eyes can even lead to blindness.
- Skin disorder. High blood sugar can cause skin infections or fungal infections.
- Foot problems. Poor flow of blood in the feet can cause several disorders.
- Hearing problems. This is a common ailment in diabetic patients.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes of type 2 can cause Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- Type 1 and 2 diabetic patients often suffer from severe depression.