What Exactly is Diabetes?
Signs of Diabetes
There are a few different types of diabetes, but the signs are pretty much the same. While there isn’t technically a cure for diabetes, studies have shown that it is possible to halt its progression, and for some people to even reverse it, at least in the case of Type 2 Diabetes. Through weight loss and lifestyle changes such as proper diet and exercise, many can reach normal blood sugar levels, as well as maintain those levels, without the need for any medication. Again, this doesn’t necessarily cure the individual as it will be an ongoing process to keep the signs of diabetes at bay. Despite this, being diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have a good quality of life. There are many things that can be done to reduce the symptoms and health complications that come with diabetes. Seek professional help, whether that involves talking to your doctor, a nutritionist, and even a personal trainer to help you make the lifestyle changes necessary. Whatever you choose, we at Bare Health are here to help!
Diabetes is a chronic (long-term) condition that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Insulin is key in regulating blood glucose levels in that it acts as a guard that allows the glucose to enter the body’s cells so it can be used for energy. With diabetes, either your body can’t make enough insulin, or it can’t adequately use the insulin that is available, so too much glucose stays in the bloodstream, unused, which leads to serious health problems. There are three main kinds of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational diabetes. The biggest difference is the cause of each one. For instance, Gestational diabetes only occurs in pregnant women that have never had diabetes before, and it usually goes away once the baby is born. However, both the mother and child are now at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Type 2 diabetes is preventable, and develops over many years of poor lifestyle choices. Type 1 is less common, usually genetic, and is caused by the immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Here are some signs that you may have one of these types of diabetes.
Sign 1: Increased Thirst and Extreme Hunger
Since your body can’t properly use insulin, your cells aren’t able to get the glucose they need to supply you with energy. So in an attempt to catch up, your body will keep asking for more food and water. With regards to Gestational diabetes, symptoms will usually appear in the middle of pregnancy, which may make this first sign of increased thirst and hunger go unnoticed as they are both common in pregnant women. This is why getting your blood sugar levels checked during pregnancy is so important. Those with Type 1 diabetes tend to experience more severe versions of these symptoms, so the extreme hunger can be accompanied by stomach pains, nausea, and even vomiting. Type 1 diabetes also tends to get diagnosed early in childhood or in the teen years. Since Type 2 diabetes takes years to develop and is more commonly found in adults over 40 years of age, symptoms can go unnoticed for a while, and are felt less severely for most people.
Sign 2: Frequent Urination and Presence of Ketones
Polyuria (frequent urination), is one of the more serious signs of diabetes because it indicates that your kidneys are now getting overwhelmed. Since the blood glucose keeps building up and it has nowhere to go, the kidneys now have to work overtime to absorb and filter it all out. Excess glucose gets taken out through the urine, which unfortunately also drags out other fluids from the body’s tissues, making you dehydrated. So now there’s a vicious cycle of drinking more water in an attempt to hydrate, which leads to more urination. Some people also notice that even when they aren’t taking in fluids, while they sleep for instance, they continue to suffer from constant urination, known as Nocturia (night-time urination), leading to poor quality of sleep.
This frequent loss of fluids can also lead to dry skin. Even more serious is the presence of ketones in the urine. Now, ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat, which occurs when there isn’t enough insulin available so your body burns fat for energy instead. High ketone levels can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to a coma or even death.
Sign 3: Unexplained Weight Loss and Fatigue
While it may seem counter-intuitive that diabetes may lead to weight loss, since being overweight is a major risk factor to getting it in the first place, it is a common sign for various reasons. The mitochondria in our bodies are in charge of providing us with energy, but in people suffering with diabetes, they work less efficiently, leading to daily fatigue. On top of this, as mentioned before, the lack of insulin hindering glucose being turned into energy will lead to the body to start burning muscle and fat for energy (fat being the hardest for your body to burn). Also, in people that suffer from frequent urination, the loss of so many fluids will lead to a loss of weight as well. Unexplained weight loss tends to be the first sign for people with Type 1 diabetes, but it also happens to those with Type 2 or Gestational diabetes. If you notice that you have unintentionally (without dietary or physical activity changes) lost more than five percent of your normal body weight or more than ten pounds in six months or less, consult your doctor.
Sign 4: Frequent Infections
Unfortunately, high blood sugar levels weaken a person’s immune system defenses, leading to frequent infections. When coupled with the other common signs of diabetes, like dry skin and reduced blood flow, the body becomes vulnerable to infection and will take longer to heal than the average person. Even those with minimally elevated blood sugar levels will have worse outcomes with infections. The most common infections that point to diabetes include gum, skin, foot, yeast/vaginal, and urinary tract infections. You may have heard of people losing limbs, especially a foot due to diabetes. This is due to the fact that reduced blood flow numbs the extremities, like the feet and hands, so minor cuts, bumps, and scrapes go unnoticed and can easily get infected. Once the infection enters the bloodstream, more life-threatening complications ensue. This is one reason it is important to diagnose diabetes early, and to pay close care and attention to the feet and hands if injured.
Sign 5: Disrupted Senses
Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands is another of the more serious signs in people with diabetes. Diabetes-related health issues involve nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, and reduced blood flow to the extremities. This results in a lack of sensation in the feet and hands, so injuries to these areas will go unnoticed more often than not, and worsen quickly. Certain types of neuropathy, especially when combined with the other signs of diabetes previously mentioned, will lead to dry, and even cracked skin, making for ideal entry points for infection. Since there is already less blood flow in these individuals, the body is less prepared to utilize its typical immune system defenses (like the white blood cells) or nutrients to fight these infections and encourage the healing process. On top of these skin and nerve issues, another sense affected is your vision. High levels of blood sugar causes water in the body to get pulled into the lens inside the eyes, resulting in swelling. This causes blurring of the eyesight, which only goes away after blood sugar levels go back to normal, but can take six weeks to be reversed.
Both Type 1 and 2 affect the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels. Both types have symptoms that vary depending on how much the blood sugar is elevated, but people who are prediabetic or have Type 2 diabetes may not even feel any symptoms initially. By contrast, most people with Type 1 diabetes tend to experience symptoms quickly and more severely. Unfortunately enough for women already going through the intense labors of creating human life during pregnancy, they also have their own special diabetic corner to deal with as well. Luckily though, we do have the power to combat this horrible condition through healthy lifestyle interventions, and the marvels of modern medicine. There are things in life that are inevitable, the important part is to do our best to be ready when they rear their ugly head, educate yourselves our friends. Together we can prevail, feel free to reach out and ask us anything, at Bare Health we are here for the long haul!
Author: Tessa Minim Carla and Armando Castro Trainers at Bare Health