Thirst, fatigue, and an unpleasant breath odor are all possible signs of diabetes. The primary warning sign is a high glucose level on a lab test of your blood. Most people with diabetes are unaware of their condition until diagnosed on a routine physical exam that includes lab tests on a blood sample. For this reason, it is an excellent idea to have your glucose (as well as cholesterol) checked by your physician on your routine physical-especially if you are over forty years old.
There are different types of diabetes. The symptoms associated with Type 1 diabetes are not always present in individuals with other types. Frequent urination, non-healing sores, and dry skin are an additional three symptoms typically found in diabetic persons. But, weight loss is a symptom in Type 1 diabetes that is not typical of Type 2 or gestational diabetes.
Juvenile (Type 1) Diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 215,000 persons under 20 years of age have diabetes. Fifteen-thousand children are diagnosed each year with Type 1 diabetes per the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation [JDRF]). In Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, the body's immune system destroys pancreatic cells that make insulin. Since insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar (glucose), the inability to produce insulin can cause the glucose to accumulate in the bloodstream to a dangerous level.
Before the twentieth century, children with Type 1 diabetes often did not survive into adulthood. Therefore, the prevalence of this hereditary form of diabetes was low. The ability to inject insulin to manage the disease has enabled individuals with juvenile diabetes to thrive into adulthood and have children of their own. This has resulted in an increased world-wide prevalence of juvenile diabetes.
Diabetes Type 2
This form of diabetes-in which the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to control blood glucose-is often found in obese adults. However, its incidence in children in the United States is increasing due to the obesity epidemic. In elderly persons, Type 2 diabetes is often also the result of diminished capacity of the pancreas to function normally. Peripheral nerve damage can result from uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes; a feeling of "pins and needles" in the hands and feet is often the first symptom. However, many adults first learn of their diabetic condition from the results of a blood glucose test. The A1C test may be administered in persons suspected of having diabetes.
Pregnant women who are overweight are at particular risk of developing gestational diabetes. While the diabetes may reverse following childbirth, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is raised for women who were diagnosed with this form of diabetes during their pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes has also been linked to a risk of miscarriage.
For anyone with a family history of diabetes, it is important to inform your healthcare practitioners so that your blood sugar (glucose) can be checked at regular intervals. Maintaining a healthy weight in relation to height can also reduce the chances of developing diabetes.