Risk factors & Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes – The bitter-sweet truth

What is diabetes?

The disease has been called the “silent killer”. It refers to a disorder where the body does not have the capacity to absorb blood glucose resulting in increased blood sugar levels. Left untreated, diabetes can affect internal organs and can even be life-threatening. The World Health Organization has predicted Diabetes to be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.

Diagnosis is a significant challenge: Across the world, one in every two diabetic adults is undiagnosed. To mitigate long-term costs, innovative methods will be needed to enhance early detection, screening, and diagnosis.

What are different types of diabetes?

Type1 diabetes: This form of diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is caused by the body’s inability to manufacture insulin. Insulin-dependent people with Type I diabetes need artificial insulin every day, to survive.

Type2 diabetes: The way the body uses insulin is affected by type 2 diabetes. Unlike type I diabetes, the body still makes insulin, but the body cells do not respond to it as well as they used to. Elevated blood sugar levels are the typical indication of this type of diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is also called “adult-onset diabetes”. This is because it occurs almost exclusively in middle and late adulthood.

Gestational diabetes: This form affects women during pregnancy, as the body’s insulin sensitivity declines. Gestational diabetes does not affect all women and typically goes away after the baby is born.

Pre-diabetes: The term pre-diabetes refers to blood glucose levels more significant than usual but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. On the other hand, people with prediabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even though they do not have signs of the disease.

Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus include: 

  • Lipid disorder: High cholesterol and triglycerides level
  • High blood pressure 
  • Obesity 
  • Gestational diabetes 
  • PCOS or PCOD condition 
  • Sedentary lifestyle 
  • Being over 45 years of age 

Fatalities as a result of Diabetes: If untreated or unmanaged Diabetic patients can slip into a diabetic coma. This arises out of complications of the disease. A diabetic coma is caused by dangerously elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Low Blood Sugar: Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is a potentially risky situation. People with diabetes, who take drugs that raise insulin levels in the body, can experience low blood sugar. Low sugar symptoms are as follows: 

  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating
  • Tingling lips and skin 
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Concentration problems
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Palpitations
  • Sudden anxiety

High Blood Sugar: Having high blood sugar daily or over a prolonged period will damage the nerves, blood vessels, and organs. It can also lead to many complicated health problems. Ketoacidosis, a build-up of acids in the blood, is common in people with type 1 diabetes. 

Very high blood sugar can lead to a potentially fatal situation in which the body can’t absorb sugar when you have type 2 diabetes or are at risk. The disease is known as a hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). In this case, you will urinate more often at first, then less frequently later. Your urine will darken, and you may become seriously dehydrated.

Other symptoms of high sugar level and uncontrolled diabetes are: 

  • Frequent thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Breathing problems
  • Stomach ache
  • Breath with a fruity odour
  • Mouth dryness
  • A pounding pulse

How Early Detection Helps

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, you need to be screened immediately. Some people may be asymptomatic – that is, they may not show any symptoms  – but have to get screened when they exhibit risk factors for diabetes. Early testing helps doctors manage the disease better and chalk out a line of treatment and health program and put you on the road to health and wellness.

Tests to Determine Blood Sugar:

  1. Fasting plasma Glucose Test: This test assesses your blood glucose levels after you are without food for at least 8 hours. This test is used to detect if the patient is diabetic or prediabetic. 
  2. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: This test examines your blood sugar after you’ve fasted for at least 8 hours and have consumed a glucose-containing liquid for two hours. This test will be used to assess whether or not you have diabetes or prediabetes.
  3. Random Blood Glucose Test: Doctors recommend this test when diabetes symptoms are present, at any time, without waiting until the patient has fasted. 
  4. Haemoglobin A1c Test:  This is the new standard used as a screening aid or diagnostic procedure for prediabetes and diabetes. Usually, the system is used to monitor blood glucose regulation in diabetic patients over some time. Normally an HbA1c test is recommended by doctors once in 3 months to ascertain the average blood glucose levels.

If your HbA1c level is between 5.7 per cent to 6,4 per cent, you are prediabetic. This can be reversed with lifestyle and diet modifications. If your HbA1c level is above 6.5 per cent then you are diagnosed as diabetic.

Managing Diabetes

While diabetes is steadily on the rise and can present complications, early detection, proper medication & management and expert doctor consulting can help you lead a normal life. Usually, a doctor refers a diabetic to a nutritionist who will recommend a “Diabetic Meal Plan” adjusting calorie intake per day while ensuring daily diet incorporated vital nutrients and vitamins. There are diabetic coaches and nutritionists specially trained to help manage diabetes.

Above all, it’s acting in time and being vigilant that will help you manage this silent killer. Regular blood sugar screening, a healthy lifestyle and exercise can help mitigate significant complications. The mantra: Lead a healthy lifestyle and catch it early.