Diabetes affects millions of Americans every year, and in 2012 over 9 percent of the population had diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. With over 1 million more Americans being diagnosed every year, diabetes is a medical epidemic that can’t be ignored. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, and is often found in conjunction with other life-threatening conditions including: hypoglycemia, heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputations. Diabetes is a serious health issue that needs to be treated, and early detection is crucial. Read on to learn more about what diabetes is, and how to spot it.

What is Diabetes?

First things first: what exactly is diabetes? Diabetes is a condition that affects the production of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone that comes from the pancreas, and helps with sugar entering your cells, and lowering the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. This sugar, or glucose, is a main source of energy for the body, and is used by cells to make muscles and tissues. If the cells that produce insulin become impaired and can’t meet the body’s demands, a diabetic condition can present. People with type 1 diabetes have a total lack of insulin, and people with type 2 diabetes cannot use the insulin they have, or have too little. Type 1 diabetes is much less common, only accounting for 5-10 percent of the diabetic population. Type 1 diabetes usually starts at a younger age, and cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age, but is most common to appear during adulthood. With Type 2 diabetes the body is not able to use insulin in the right way, called insulin resistance, and as it progresses less and less insulin is produced. This leads to insulin deficiency, but Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. Both types of diabetes can lead to more serious complications, and need to be treated.

Warning Signs

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes differ in the symptoms they present. If you know the symptoms and warning signs, you will be more ready to take action when they occur.

Type 1

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually start in childhood or young adulthood. The symptoms are usually severe, due to high blood sugar, and medical help is often sought. As stated above, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, and the sudden symptoms can be frightening. There can be sudden, unexplained weight loss combined with an increase in appetite, an unquenchable thirst, and frequent urination. You may experience blurred vision, decreased energy, and stomach pain, nausea or vomiting. Children may start wetting the bed who have had no previous issues. If you suspect that you, or more likely your child, has type 1 diabetes, contact your practitioner. A simple in-office test can be done to detect sugar in the urine. A blood test will then confirm whether diabetes is the cause of symptoms. Even though type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, early detection is crucial to keeping healthy and avoiding life-threatening conditions.

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes can manifest at any age, and lead to serious health complications. Type 2 can sometimes manifest with no symptoms at all, and about a third of all people with type 2 diabetes don’t even know they have it. If you are at a high risk for diabetes you should talk to your practitioner about getting tested. Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are similar to type 1 and include increased thirst, hunger, frequent urination and a dry mouth. These symptoms are due to the high glucose levels in the body, which lead to an increased production of urine. This can cause you to become dehydrated. Headaches, blurred vision, and fatigue are also indications, as is unexplained weight loss even when you are still hungry and eating. Foot pain and numbness can be present, due to damage to nerves after being exposed to high blood sugar for a prolonged period of time. If you are experiencing these symptoms it is really important to speak to your health provider to get to the root of your health issues.

Complications of Diabetes

There are other complications that can present with type 2 diabetes, and knowing the warning signs of these can be helpful as well in preventing and treating diabetes.

  • Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, occurs when the sugar level in the body drops too low and the body does not have enough fuel. Hypoglycemia is not a disease in and of itself, but is a serious condition. Warning signs of hypoglycemia can be nausea, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, mood changes, blurred vision, and more. Severe hypoglycemia can lead to more serious conditions including seizures and coma.

  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS)

This is an extremely serious complication that can lead to a diabetic coma. This occurs when the body becomes dehydrated because the blood sugar is too high. Checking your blood sugar regularly can help protect against HHNS, and staying well hydrated is recommended as well.

  • Diabetic Neuropathy

High levels of glucose in the body can damage the walls of blood vessels that feed nerves. When this happens you can experience numbness, burning, or pain, that usually begins in the tips of the toes. This pain can spread, and if you don’t get control of your blood sugar you can eventually lose all feeling in the affected limbs. Neuropathy can also affect digestion, and lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

  • Nephropathy

Nephropathy is kidney damage and is also caused by damage to the millions of blood vessels in the kidneys. Prolonged damage to the kidneys can lead to kidney disease and result in dialysis or kidney transplant.

  • Alzheimer’s

The connection between Alzheimer’s and diabetes is not completely understood, but the worse the blood sugar control, the greater the risk of Alzheimer’s.

  • Skin

Diabetes can leave you more open to skin problems. You become more susceptible to bacterial and fungal skin infections.

  • Eyes

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina, and could lead to blindness. The risk of cataracts and glaucoma also increases with diabetes.

  • Hearing

An increase in hearing problems occurs with diabetes.

  • Amputation

If nerve damage in the feet is not treated, blood flow becomes restricted and many complications can arise. Diabetes leaves the feet more susceptible to cuts and blisters becoming serious infections, and severe damage can lead to toe, foot, or leg amputation.

Controlling Diabetes

As you can see, diabetes is a very serious condition and needs to be managed. Controlling your diabetes takes effort, but the reward is a better, longer life with less risk of serious health conditions. Spot checking your sugar levels is important, and can help you know what and when to eat. Watching your carbohydrate intake is also important, because carbs can send your blood sugar soaring out of control. Exercising is also really important when dealing with diabetes, and can lower blood sugar. Aim to exercise regularly for lasting blood sugar control. Keeping an eye on your blood sugar, cholesterol and weight are all important in controlling your diabetes. Diabetes can be controlled, but even more important in type 2 diabetes is prevention.

Preventing Diabetes

While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, there are definitely steps you can take to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, or have a family history of diabetes, you are already predisposed to diabetes and should take extra precaution. Losing weight is a huge step you can take to prevent diabetes, and doing this through physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can help you safely lose weight. A study found that losing a moderate amount of weight and exercising regularly reduced participant’s risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent! More physical activity and a healthy weight will keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. Eating plenty of fiber is also important for reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts are great sources. Getting screened for diabetes is also important, and The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose screening if you are 45 or older and overweight, or under 45, overweight, and have a sedentary lifestyle or family history of diabetes. Exercise, eat right, maintain a healthy weight, get appropriate screenings, and watch for the warning signs of diabetes to prevent major health complications.

As you can see, diabetes is a serious condition that is affecting more and more Americans each year. Don’t become part of that statistic! Take steps to prevent diabetes, and if you think you may have symptoms, visit your health practitioner right away. If you need a health clinic in Flint, American Health Specialist is your trusted source for quality medical care—call us today!