Beware of these Red Flags of Diabetes
Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

Jul 20Diabetes

Beware of these Red Flags of Diabetes

This article is compiled by Sanjana Varma, a freelance writer at Proactive For Her.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose level is abnormally high. Blood glucose from the food we eat is our main energy source. The pancreas with the help of the hormone insulin helps glucose get absorbed by cells for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough insulin or even no insulin at all. Your body may be unable to use insulin in other cases. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

There are three different types of diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes: If you have Type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin on its own. This is because your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
  • Type 2 diabetes: If you have type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to use insulin well, due to insulin resistance. Later on, problems with insulin production may occur as the disease progresses. Type 2 can develop at any age. It is mostly found in middle-aged or older people. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes develops in some women during pregnancy and usually disappears after delivery. However, if you've had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

How is diabetes diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects diabetes, they may order for any or all of these tests.

  • Glycated haemoglobin (A1C) test/(HbA1C): This blood test measures your average blood sugar level of the past two or three months. You don’t need to fast before this test. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The higher your blood sugar levels, the more haemoglobin you'll have with sugar attached. If the result is more than 6.5 %, you are likely to have diabetes.
  • Random blood sugar test: A blood sample will be taken at a random time and tested for the presence of blood sugar. Regardless of when you last ate, a blood sugar level of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or above indicates diabetes. In this case, your doctor may get more tests done in order to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Fasting blood sugar test: A blood sample will be taken after an overnight fast. A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is normal. A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) is considered prediabetic. If it's 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test: After an overnight fast, you are to drink a sugary liquid. Your blood sugar levels are tested for the next two hours. A blood sugar level less than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is normal. A reading of more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) after two hours indicates diabetes. A reading between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L) indicates prediabetes.

Early signs of diabetes

Diabetes may present one or more of these early signs and symptoms.

  • Frequent urination: A tendency to urinate frequently. When your kidney can’t keep up with the blood sugar levels, they try to remove the excess through urine. This makes you have to urinate often, including during the night.
  • Extreme thirst: Extreme thirst is another common early symptom of diabetes. The spike in blood sugar levels make you thirsty and often water cannot quench your thirst.
  • Increased hunger: Intense hunger can be an early warning sign of diabetes. Your body uses the glucose in your blood to feed your cells. When this system is broken, your cells can’t absorb the required energy. Your body sends hunger signals and you need to eat more food.
  • Nerve pain or numbness: Some might experience tingling or numbness in their hands, fingers, feet, and toes. This is a sign of nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy. It usually occurs after many years of living with diabetes, but for some, it appears as the first sign.
  • Slow-healing wounds: High blood sugar restricts blood flow throughout the body due to the narrowing of blood vessels. It delays the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the sites of injury, paving way for infections.
  • Blurred vision: It occurs when the blood sugar levels are poorly managed over a period of time. Tiny blood vessels in your eyes are affected, fluids seep into your eye lens causing blurry vision. It's important to see an ophthalmologist as early as you can as follow up regularly.
  • Dark skin patches: Dark, velvety discolouration in the folds of your skin is called acanthosis nigricans. This can be an early warning sign of diabetes. It’s most common in the armpits, neck, and groin regions, and the skin also becomes thickened.
  • Dry mouth and itchy skin: Since your body is losing fluids because of frequent urination, your body loses moisture. You could get dehydrated, and your mouth may feel dry. Dry skin can make you itchy.
  • Yeast infections: Yeast feeds on glucose, high glucose levels make them thrive on moist folds of skin. It usually develops between fingers and toes, in or around genital region, groins and under breasts.

The warning signs of Type 2 diabetes are at times so mild that they can go unnoticed. Some people don't find out they have diabetes until long-term damage crops up. On the other hand, Type 1 diabetes symptoms usually happen quickly, in a matter of days or weeks and can be very severe. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to seek advice from your doctor.

How can I manage diabetes?

Diabetes can be managed with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. A healthy lifestyle is necessary for all types of diabetes.

These steps help you manage diabetes easily:

  • Exercise regularly: Make room for some kind of exercise daily and stick to the regime faithfully.
  • Eat healthy food: Seek guidance from a dietician and follow the diet plan made for you. Avoid sugary and fatty food.
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly: Check your blood sugar levels regularly. Ensure that it is within the permissible levels
  • Go for periodic checkups: You need to go for check-ups as per your doctor's advice. Your doctor can do annual tests to look for early signs of diabetes related complications like kidney damage, nerve damage or heart related problems. Please visit your ophthalmologist, cardiologist or nephrologist (kidney specialist) as recommended. They may modify your medication in order to delay the progress of complications.

The final verdict

A healthy lifestyle can help lose weight and reduce insulin resistance. This can even reverse diabetes in some cases. Having diabetes may not be as restrictive as you think and it can be managed one little step at a time.

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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