How do you know if you have diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease where your blood sugar levels are too high. It needs to be managed and the first step in management is awareness. Cody Robertson, MD, explained how to recognize the warming signs of diabetes and what to do.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
While you may not always notice symptoms, if you are experiencing the below symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor.
- Needing to use the bathroom (pass urine) more often
- Feeling very hungry and thirsty
- Feeling very tired
- Blurry vision
- Cuts and bruises take longer to heal
- Unexpected weight loss
What is Type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce insulin and usually starts in childhood. The main risk factors that for Type 1 diabetes are:
- Family history. If you have relatives with diabetes, you may have a higher risk of developing it, too. Anyone who has a mother, father, sister or brother with Type 1 diabetes should be screened. A simple blood test can diagnose diabetes.
- Diseases of the pancreas. These conditions, such as pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, can slow the ability of the pancreas to make insulin.
- Infection or illness. Some infections and illnesses – mostly rare ones – can damage your pancreas.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
With Type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin and can’t use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. Type 2 usually affects adults, but it can begin at any time in your life.
Factors that put you at risk for Type 2 diabetes include:
- Obesity or being overweight. Research shows this is a top reason for Type 2 diabetes. Because of the rise in obesity among children in the U.S., this type is affecting more teenagers.
- Impaired glucose tolerance. Prediabetes is a milder form of this condition. It can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. If you have it, there’s a strong chance you’ll get Type 2 diabetes.
- Insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes often starts with cells that are resistant to insulin. That means your pancreas has to work extra hard to make enough insulin to meet your body’s needs.
- Ethnic background. Diabetes happens more often in Hispanic/Latino Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Alaska natives.
- High blood pressure. Blood pressure over 140/90 is associated with a higher risk of diabetes.
- Low levels of HDL. HDL is known as the good cholesterol. Low HDL levels and high levels of triglycerides are associated with increased risk of diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes. If you developed diabetes while you were pregnant, you likely had gestational diabetes. This raises your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Sedentary lifestyle. If you exercise less than three times a week, you may be putting yourself at risk for diabetes.
- Family history. Those with a parent or sibling who has diabetes are at increased risk of developing diabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a higher risk.
- Age. If you’re over 45 and overweight or if you have symptoms of diabetes, talk to your doctor about a simple screening test.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes through blood tests. The blood tests show if your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.
“Do not try to diagnose yourself if you think you might have diabetes. Testing equipment that you can buy over the counter, such as a blood glucose meter, should not be used to diagnose diabetes,” said Dr. Robertson.
Who should be tested for diabetes?
Anyone who has symptoms of diabetes should be tested for the disease. Also, some people will not have any symptoms but may have risk factors for diabetes and should be tested. Testing allows doctors to find diabetes sooner and work with their patients to manage diabetes and prevent future complications.
Testing also allows doctors to find prediabetes. If you are overweight, making lifestyle changes to lose a modest amount of weight can help you delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes.
“Diabetes can be treated and even prevented in some cases. It is important to know all the risk factors, signs and symptoms so that you can prevent or treat diabetes,” said Dr. Robertson.
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