Diabetes symptoms, causes and treatment

Diabetes is a serious health condition wherein the body is unable to process blood glucose or blood sugar. This condition affects people of all ages, and different types can occur.

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Management of the condition will depend on the type of diabetes that you have. Not all kinds of this disease are due to being overweight or the person’s lack of active lifestyle. In some cases, it is already present since childhood.    

Diabetes needs ongoing and careful management. Untreated, it can lead to high sugar levels, which increase the risks of dangerous complications. People with diabetes are more prone to heart diseases and stroke.

Diabetes Types 

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease that causes a patient to experience high blood sugar. The hormone insulin moves the sugar from the blood into the cells and stores it to be used for energy. When a person has diabetes, the body may not produce enough insulin or is not effectively using the insulin it produces. 

When left untreated, high blood sugars due to diabetes can damage your organs such as your eyes, kidneys, and nerves. 

There are several types of diabetes –

Type 1 Diabetes – this autoimmune disease causes the body’s immune system to fight and damage the cells in the pancreas. Because of this condition, the body does not produce enough insulin to turn glucose into energy resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Type 2 Diabetes – this condition happens when the body resists insulin. People with this condition cannot process glucose properly and the sugar starts building up in the blood.  

Prediabetes – happens when blood sugar is at a higher level than usual, but still not high enough to be considered as a Type 2 Diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes – this condition happens in pregnant women. In some pregnancies, the placenta produces insulin-blocking hormones, which lead to high blood sugar levels. 

There is also a rare condition known as diabetes insipidus. It is not related to Diabetes despite the similar name. This condition affects another organ which is the kidneys. This condition causes the kidneys to remove excessive amounts of fluid from the body.  

Symptoms of Diabetes 

Rising levels of blood sugar cause symptoms of diabetes. Generally, it includes the following:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Sores that don’t get well 

Men with diabetes may mainly experience weak muscle strength, a decreased sex drive, and erectile dysfunction. On the other hand, women with diabetes may experience dry, itchy skin, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections.  

People with Type 1 diabetes often have general symptoms mentioned above, except for sores that don’t heal. They may also experience mood changes. 

For Type 2 Diabetes patients, the general symptoms may be experienced with cases of sores that are slow to heal. There will also be recurring infections due to elevated glucose levels, which makes it difficult for the body to heal. 

Women with gestational diabetes, on the other hand, often do not have any symptoms. It is usually detected on a routine blood sugar test, which is conducted between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. In rare cases, a woman with this condition may experience increased thirst and urination. 

Causes of Diabetes

There are different causes associated with every type of diabetes. 

For Type 1, there are no exact causes as to why this autoimmune disease happens. For some reason, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. These cells produce insulin, and due to this condition, the body cannot produce sufficient insulin to use. For some people, genes play a role, but it is also possible that a virus has set off the attack of the immune system. 

The causes of Type 2 Diabetes is a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. People who are obese and overweight have heightened the risks of developing this condition. With extra weight in your belly, your cells become more resistant to the effects of insulin. Type 2 Diabetes commonly runs in the family.

Gestational Diabetes, on the other hand, is due to hormonal changes that happen to a woman’s body during pregnancy. The placenta produces insulin-resistant hormones, and this causes high blood sugar. Women who are overweight or gain excess weight during pregnancy are more prone to developing gestational diabetes. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you are showing symptoms of diabetes or at risk for this condition should get tested. Pregnant women are routinely tested for gestational diabetes during the second or third trimester. In other cases, doctors use these blood tests in diagnosing prediabetes and diabetes.

Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) – this test measures blood sugar levels after you fasted for 8 hours.

A1C Test – this test gives a record of your blood sugar levels in the last three months. 

Glucose challenge test – the blood sugar is checked one hour after drinking a sugary liquid 

Glucose Tolerance Test – this three-hour test will check your blood sugar after an overnight fast then drinking a sugary liquid.

The earlier you get diagnosed with this condition, the sooner you will be able to start treatment.   

Treatment of Diabetes

Diabetes treatment varies depending on the cause and type of disease that you have. Some treatments can be taken orally, and others are administered via injections.

For Type 1 Diabetes, the primary treatment for this condition is Insulin. It replaces the hormone that the body is not able to produce. There are four types of insulin treatments used for Type 1 Diabetes treatment. They are differentiated by how long the effects last and how quickly they take effect. 

  1. Rapid-acting insulin – starts working within 15 minutes and the effects last for three to four hours
  2. Short-acting insulin – starts working within 30 minutes and the effects last for six to eight hours
  3. Intermediate-acting insulin – starts working in one to two hours and the effects last for 12 to 18 hours 
  4. Long-acting insulin – works within a few hours after injection and the effects last for 24 hours or longe 

For Type 2 Diabetes, treatment involves one or more prescription medications. People with this condition may also take insulin. Moreover, diet and exercise are crucial in the effective management of Type 2 Diabetes.  

Women with gestational diabetes are required to monitor blood sugar levels several times a day. Diet and exercise may not be sufficient to bring glucose levels down. More so, you may need to take insulin to address your blood sugar levels. Additionally, insulin is considered safe for a growing child. 

 Diabetes and Diet 

Choosing healthy food options is the focus of diabetes management. There are cases where a change of diet is enough to control your blood sugar levels.  

For people with Type 1 Diabetes, a diet with a limited amount of carbohydrates will help control the increase of blood sugar levels. Carb intake should be balanced to your insulin dose. You can work with a dietician for your diet plan for better blood sugar control. 

People with Type 2 Diabetes should also have a well-balanced diet to control blood sugar and lose weight. A dietician can help people with this condition with their carb count. Ideally, smaller meals throughout the day will keep glucose levels steady. Healthy foods should include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein. 

More so, women with gestational diabetes also need to keep their meals well-balanced. Make the right food choices, portion sizes, and limit the intake of sugary or salty foods. 

 What are Normal Conditions?

The normal range for blood sugar levels for people with diabetes after fasting starts at 72 to 99mg/dL. For people with diabetes, the range from 80 to 130 mg/dL after fasting. 

High blood sugar levels for people without diabetes starts at 140 mg/dL while those who are getting diabetes treatment, the upper range is around 180 mg/dL. 

Risks of Having Diabetes 

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing different types of diabetes. 

You are more at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes if you have a parent or sibling with the same condition. This type of diabetes is carried in genes and can be inherited. 

People become more prone to Type 2 diabetes when these have these risk factors:

  • 45 years or more
  • Overweight
  • Not physically active
  • Have prediabetes
  • Parent or sibling with this condition
  • Had gestational diabetes
  • High-blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Have Hispanic-American, African American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Asian American and American Indian ancestry

Additionally, women are more at risk of developing gestational diabetes when they are overweight, have polycystic ovary symptoms, had gestational diabetes in the previous pregnancy, and have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes. 


When to Seek Medical Attention

You should call your doctor if you are experiencing diabetes symptoms throughout the day. People with diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels consistently. If it shows a stable high at all tests during the day and you are having symptoms like increased thirst and the need to urinate more than the normal, you have to call your doctor immediately.