If you seem to have all the symptoms of diabetes, your doctor should perform the tests that will determine whether you have it — and what type it is. Even if you don’t appear to be at risk, understanding diabetes symptoms and causes may help you or a loved one make the lifestyle changes that will decrease the risk further.
Type 1 Diabetes
Although Type 1 diabetes (often called Juvenile Onset Diabetes) used to be categorized as a childhood or young adult disease, it can occur at any age. Diabetes symptoms begin out of nowhere and can develop over just a few days. If the person doesn’t have a family history of the disease, the possibility of diabetes may not even be considered.
The classic signs of diabetes are:
- Excessive urination including frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night
- Intense thirst and hunger
- Severe fatigue
As Type 1 diabetes progresses other signs of diabetes may include:
- Dry skin
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained weight loss
- Thin, malnourished appearance
Fortunately, many of these diabetic signs are similar to a more controllable form of the disease, Type 2 diabetes. Only 5-10% of the people expressing the classic diabetic symptoms will be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Physical health is key to this syndrome — 80% of Type 2 diabetics are overweight and physically inactive. This was once thought to be a middle-aged disease, but since childhood obesity has been on the rise, cases of Type 2 diabetes are being diagnosed at every age. The majority of Type 2 diabetics are still over 55.
Some high-risk groups of people are inclined to develop the syndrome:
- People whose parents, brothers or sisters have the syndrome
- Americans of African, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander descent
- Women who have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- Women who have had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
Type 2 diabetes is a gradual syndrome with the signs of diabetes developing over years. Although the person may experience excessive urination and thirst, there may be no other apparent diabetic signs. Weight loss and hunger may go unnoticed. For this reason, annual screening for the disease after age 45 is a good idea, especially for anyone who is in a high-risk category.
As Type 2 diabetes progresses, some diabetes symptoms may become apparent:
- Fatigue and/or nausea
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections and slow healing of wounds or sores
- Blood pressure consistently at or above 140/90
- HDL cholesterol less than 35 mg/dL or triglycerides greater than 250 mg/dL
Sometimes a woman can develop a form of diabetes during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is the most common complication of pregnancy and can endanger the life of the mother as well as the child. Thankfully, with early diagnosis of diabetic signs and careful monitoring, the severity of this syndrome can be controlled.
Gestational diabetes is usually only a temporary syndrome that lasts until delivery. It can, however, place the mother at risk to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. All expectant mothers are usually carefully monitored during their regular checkups, especially if they fall into a high-risk group:
- Older than 25 years of age
- 20% above ideal body weight
- A family history of diabetes
- Member of a high-risk ethnic group