Type 2 Diabetes: The signs that should alert you before the diagnosis
Published 20 Oct 2022 • By Rahul Roy
Diabetes is one of the most commonly occurring diseases in the world, but it is easy to write off the early symptoms and ignore the subtle signs of its onset.
So what is diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes? What are its causes? What are the signs and symptoms to be aware of before diagnosis?
We share it all in this article!
Diabetes is a chronic condition that impacts how the body converts the food substances that we consume into energy. It occurs when there is too much glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream of an individual.
It is important to understand the role of insulin in this process. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that allows the glucose to enter the cells which is necessary to be utilized for energy.
Therefore, diabetes occurs either when the body stops secreting insulin or if it secretes insulin abnormally especially in low amounts. This leads to the glucose in the blood not reaching the cells for transformation to energy leading to a high sugar level.
The number of diabetes cases have been rising in recent years and it is estimated that there are approximately 537 million adults currently suffering from diabetes in the world and that number could rise to nearly 800 million by 2045.
It is important to note that diabetes is a deadly disease, with facts pointing to around 6.7 million deaths worldwide in the year 2021 alone.
Presently there are 2 types of diabetes that are the most common-
Type 1 diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is relatively rare and accounts for 5-10% of all diabetes cases. It is an autoimmune reaction whereby the pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all, causing high blood sugar. The immunity system mistakenly views the cells producing insulin as a threat and destroys them. It is most commonly found in children and young adults. Insulin may be needed to be consumed on a daily basis for the person to survive.
Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is more easily found accounting for an estimated 90% of all cases. It differs from Type 1 as insulin is still created but it is not well utilized by the body. It could result from the pancreas not creating enough sugar for the cells to absorb or the cells behaving abnormally to the insulin and absorbing less amount of sugar. It normally develops in adults and older aged persons but the recent rising cases of obesity in young children have seen Type 2 diabetes cases in children too. It is important to look after diet, exercise often and live generally healthily to manage the disease.
There is another form of diabetes called gestational diabetes that usually develops in pregnant women which can also put the baby at risk. After the birth of the baby, it normally goes away, however there occurs the risk of type 2 diabetes for the person and the baby in the long term.
Presently it is estimated that around - 1.5 million people in the UK have diabetes and a whopping 850,000 more are suffering from it but are undiagnosed. It is very necessary to increase awareness of diabetes as it is estimated that more than 1 in 4 didn’t know that they had the disease until they went in for a diagnosis.
So what are the early signs or symptoms that imply that you or a loved one might be suffering from Type 2 diabetes?
Regular stops to the toilet to empty the bladder, especially at night, could be a sign of onset of diabetes. This is considering normal level of liquid consumption. A high level of sugar in the blood causes the kidneys to work overtime to dispel the extra sugar and sometimes it spills over into the urine- causing frequent urination.
This is another early symptom where even after consuming a lot of liquid, the person remains unsatisfied. Urinating frequently causes the person to be dehydrated and feel thirsty due to the kidneys working more than usual, leading to a push and pull effect.
The glucose is broken down to energy for the cells but if glucose doesn’t get appropriately absorbed, it leads to an energy deficiency. Therefore, the body will sense the lack of energy in the cells, making the person feel hungry all the time, even if the person just ate.
Itchy Skin and Infections
Itchy skin is another symptom of diabetes which could be due to poor blood circulation or even because of infections that may be fungal, or yeast based. The skin becomes very dry and and the infections takes place at a recurring rate.
The high blood sugar leads to choking of the blood passage and narrowing of the blood vessels, causing difficulties for the nutrients and oxygen to reach the injury to effect healing. So, it might take a long period of time for cuts and wounds to heal even if they may be of a minor nature.
A surplus of sugar in the blood can lead to distortion of the lenses of the eyes, affecting what a person sees, either in one eye or both the eyes. This is due to damage to the blood vessels located in the eye which causes fluid to leak onto the lens of the eyes. It is normally temporary but leaving it untreated for a prolonged period of time could lead to permanent disfiguration.
Diabetes can cause dark patches to develop on the folds of the skin and is most commonly seen in the armpits, neck and groin areas. It is caused due to the excess insulin that can also cause the affected skin to be thickened. This dark discoloration is called 'acanthosis nigricans' and is a sign of insulin resistance.
It is important to be aware of the energy an individual expends before becoming tired and unable to do so. If exercising or even simple activities like eating or taking medication, put a lot of pressure on the person, causing them to pass out, it would be wise to consult a doctor and run some tests.
This is more difficult to quantify as a symptom because it happens very regularly in normal individuals too. However, regular cases of dry mouth or xerostomia are cause to be concerned about it. It is denoted by cracked lips, dry tongue and difficulty speaking or swallowing. This is attributed to the high sugar level as well.
Uneasy and tingly hands and feet
A commonly seen phenomenon in Type 2 diabetes afflicted individuals, the nerve endings of the hands and feet are affected which cause them to shiver and shake as a result. The poor blood circulation causes the nerves to get suffocated and damaged hindering nerve function and even causing numbness in some instances.
Please do note that these symptoms vary across individuals and can also be indicators of other problems. It is always advised to go to a qualified practitioner for a detailed diagnosis to better understand these issues.
It is possible to control the rot of Type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle - eating nutritious food, exercising regularly and generally being as active as possible.
Be aware of changes to you or your loved ones and do not forget that Type 2 diabetes is a manageable condition if done in the right way. Do not be alarmed and stay on the side of caution. A great support system goes a long way. So, let’s Dia-Beat this!
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