EARLY SIGNS OF DIABETES
A serious health condition in which the sugar (glucose) level in the blood rises above the normal is called Diabetes. It mainly happens when the body is not able to produce enough insulin (a hormone) or effectively use it. The hormone insulin is produced by some special cells present in the pancreas known as Islets of Langerhans. The role of this hormone is to store the excess amount of sugar molecules in the cells for future use. But in diabetes, insulin is either not produced in sufficient amounts or becomes ineffective.
Types of Diabetes:
The two most common forms of diabetes are:
Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is also called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes as it usually occurs in children and teenagers. In this type of diabetes, the immune system of individual attacks and destroys its own insulin-producing cells present in the pancreas. When these cells are destroyed, the body is not able to produce insulin hormone. As a result, the sugar molecules start accumulating in the blood and fail to reach up to the cells for storage. A higher than normal blood sugar level is dangerous for the entire body and can damage nerve tissues, kidneys, eyes, heart, and in severe cases, may also cause coma and death.
Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It is also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes as it mostly develops after thirty-five years of age. Individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes can produce their own insulin but not sufficient in amount. Sometimes, the produced hormone is ineffective in making the blood sugar reach the cells, which is known as ‘insulin resistance’. Type 2 diabetes mostly occurs in people who follow a sedentary lifestyle and are overweight or obese.
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Early Signs of Diabetes
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have some common warning signs which are as follows:
- Frequent urination: The presence of a high amount of sugar in the blood is not healthy. So, the kidney tries to excrete out the excess sugar through urine which in turn results in frequent urination.
- Increased thirst: A lot of water is used up in the production of more urine for the excretion of excess sugar from the body. The resulting dehydration causes increased thirst.
- Itchy skin and dry mouth: The lack of a sufficient amount of water in the body gives rise to itchiness in the skin and dry mouth.
- Extreme hunger: In the absence/resistance of insulin, the cells get devoid of glucose and cannot produce energy for basic body functions. They signal the brain for more glucose which becomes a cause of increased hunger.
- Fatigue: As the cells are unable to get enough glucose, they cannot produce energy. Therefore, the person feels extreme tiredness, fatigue, or even drowsiness.
- Blurred vision: The eye lens swells up due to the fluctuating fluid levels in the body. Due to this, the shape of the lenses change and they can’t focus thereby causing blurred vision.
- Presence of fruity smell in breath and urine: When the glucose is not readily available then ketone bodies (a byproduct of fat molecules) are used for the production of energy. These ketone bodies are also excreted out through urine and give their characteristic odor (fruity smell or like nail polish remover) to the urine which can be easily detected. This distinct odor can also be detected in the breath of the individual.
- Unplanned weight loss: As the glucose obtained from food is not available, the body started using its reserve for the production of energy. Therefore, unexpected, unplanned, and extreme weight loss occurs.
Along with the above mentioned general symptoms, some early diabetes signs are distinct for both of its types. These are as follows:
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes:
These symptoms are visible when the blood glucose level remains high for a long time.
- Tingling sensation or pain in feet/legs: Due to high blood sugar level, the nerve tissues get damaged which results in pain, numbness, or tingling in the extremities.
- Delayed-healing of wounds and cuts: The nerve damage resulting from elevated blood sugar makes it difficult for the body to cure/heal wounds and cuts.
- Yeast infection: Yeast grows on a sugar-rich substrate. Having abundant glucose makes it easy for yeast to grow and proliferate. Infection can occur on any damp and warm spot of the body such as between fingers and toes, around the armpit, near the genital area, etc.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes:
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes include:
- Nausea and vomiting: When glucose is not available, the body starts burning fat for producing energy. The byproduct of fat is ketone bodies which starts accumulating in the blood. The presence of excessive ketone bodies in the blood makes an individual feel sick in the stomach.
- Weight loss: When the body is unable to get energy from the food, it starts burning fat and muscle protein for producing energy. As a result, unplanned weight loss may occur.
When to seek medical help:
Individuals with more than 45 years of age or who are already having risk factors for several diseases are important to get tested for diabetes. When the general symptoms are spotted early, many complications such as nerve damage, heart ailments, etc. can be avoided. As a thumb rule, one should seek medical help when there’s frequent urination, a feeling of sickness in the stomach, getting thirsty frequently, and breathing heavily with a tinge of sweet or fruity smell in the breath.