Learning to recognize the signs of diabetes can help people catch the condition early, before it causes damage to the body. Many doctors recommend routine diabetes screenings for all people over 45 years of age, and people who suspect that they may have the signs of diabetes should talk it over with their doctors. Testing for diabetes is not very expensive, and well worth it if the disease can be caught early.
Diabetes mellitus is a disease which has been recognized for thousands of years. People with diabetes cannot break down glucose, meaning that their cells become starved for energy, because the glucose that the cells need passes through the body rather than being utilized. Glucose metabolism requires insulin, a substance which the body normally produces on its own. In people with diabetes, there is a problem with insulin production.
There are three types of diabetes: Type I diabetes, also called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes; Type II diabetes, also called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes; and gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes which affects pregnant women. Type I is the most severe, caused by a malfunction in the immune system which causes the body to attack the cells which produce insulin, and it most commonly appears in children, although people of all ages can get it. Type II diabetes is characterized by a reduced insulin production, or by insulin resistance, meaning that the body produces the right amount of insulin, but the insulin is not effective. Gestational diabetes is linked with pregnancy, and it can put the baby at risk.
The signs of diabetes are very similar for both Type I and Type II. Patients usually get extremely thirsty, and urinate frequently, especially at night. Fatigue, lethargy, or stupor are common, and some patients even fall into a diabetic coma, a critical condition caused by a buildup of ketones in the blood or by severe hypoglycemia. Neurological changes like numbness, tingling, and vision changes can also occur, along with increased appetite and weight loss. Sweet, fruity breath is one of the hallmarks of diabetes, as is the presence of sugars in the urine. In fact, sweet urine has been described in numerous ancient medical tests, and it is one of the oldest diagnostic criteria for diabetes.
People with Type II diabetes can also develop some other symptoms. In people with insulin resistance, dark patches can develop on the skin. Signs of diabetes Type II can also include very slow-healing wounds and chronic yeast infections, caused by an abundance of yeasts feeding on the sugars that the body is not using.
Signs of diabetes can also be found in the patient's blood. Fasting tests, in which someone refrains from eating for several hours before a blood test, can be used to check levels of glucose in the blood to indicate diabetes. This test is also used in the diagnosis of diabetes. Sometimes, the test reveals pre-diabetes, which means that the patient is at risk of developing diabetes unless lifestyle changes are made.
Gestational diabetes often manifests with no symptoms. Pregnant women are diagnosed with this condition when they take a fasting glucose test, a test which is strongly recommended. The causes of gestational diabetes are not fully understood, so pregnant women should not feel like they have failed in some way if they are diagnosed. A number of techniques can be used to manage gestational diabetes, and the condition usually clears up after the birth.