Diabetes: Early Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors and Complications

Diabetes: Early Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors and Complications

What are the causes and early symptoms of diabetes?

With over 77 million diabetics, India stands second on the podium when it comes to diabetes. Surveys have found that one person in every six diabetics across the world is from India. Considering such grave figures, it is crucial that we recognise the early symptoms or the first signs of diabetes, which people often refer to as 'high sugar'.

Diabetes type II

When your body does not produce insulin properly and has high blood sugar levels, in the medical terminology, we call it Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, what in layman language we call, 'high sugar'.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) guidelines for the management of post-meal glucose levels, nondiabetic people should have a glucose level of higher than 140 mg/dl after meals, and glucose should return to pre-meal levels within 2-3 hours. Higher values indicate diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetesoriginates because of both genetics and lifestyle diseases. The risk is relatively higher if you are overweight or obese. This is because the extra weight on and around your stomach makes you resistant to the effect of insulin on blood sugar.

You must have often noticed or may even know people in whose families, lifestyle disorders such as diabetes and obesity run for years. The reason is that the family members have the same/ similar genes, which are pass on as hereditary, and this makes them more susceptible to acquire type 2 diabetes and also to be overweight.

However, in some cases, when the symptoms are not too prominent and severe, diabetes can remain undiagnosed. Hence it is very crucial to know if your pancreas, are producing adequate insulin, so as to maintain your blood sugar levels.

But how do you know whether you have diabetic/prediabetic symptoms/ or are susceptible to getting affected with diabetes in future?

There are some subtle signs and symptoms that can help you understand if you have diabetes. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's essential that you don't ignore them. Avoiding the first signs can cause long-term damage and also result in the tremendous severity of the disease.

Early testing can help manage diabetes effectively. Some indications may occur over a period of time or might come to fore suddenly.

Here's a list of the symptoms of diabetes:

  1. Frequent urination
  2. Extreme thirst/ Dry mouth
  3. Extreme hunger
  4. Blurred vision
  5. Severe tiredness and fatigue
  6. Sores/cut take long to heal
  7. Frequent infections
  8. Darkened skin, usually in the neck and armpits

Causes of Diabetes

In order to prevent, reduce risk or treat diabetes, it is essential to comprehend the reason why this disorder happens. The primary cause of diabetes is that the pancreas, a gland behind the stomach, does not produce enough insulin hormone. Insulin production is essential for the body as it helps carry sugar from the bloodstream into the cells. Once this sugar reaches the cells, it is converted into energy for immediate use or also for storage for future use. However, when insulin production becomes low or negligible, the sugar present in the bloodstream doesn't reach the cells and hence stays back in the blood. As a result, the levels of blood sugar rise.

Diabetes in Children and Infants

Diabetes is not just limited to adults and senior citizens. Children and infants too can be affected by it. However, in infants, Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed. Though this is very rare, but babies may be born with diabetes. This is called neonatal diabetes and it is most often caused because of a genetic problem. Neonatal diabetes can disappear by the time the child is 12 months old. But diabetes usually returns later in life.

Children too have symptoms similar to adults. Parents must hence pay attention and consult a paediatric diabetologist if the child-

  • becomes very thirsty or hungry
  • urinates more or wets the bed even if toilet trained
  • feels tired and weak all the time
  • undergoes unexplained weight loss
  • is unable to see properly or experiences blurred vision or other problems with eyesight
  • gets a yeast infection (thrush)
  • has fruity-smelling breath
  • becomes irritable, restless or moody

Diabetes in children and infants can, however, be managed effectively with a healthy regime and required amounts of insulin injections.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

The following can increase your risk of diabetes.

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history
  • Increasing age
  • Elevated levels of triglycerides
  • Decreased levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Thyroid
  • Gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Insulin resistance

Complications of Diabetes Mellitus

If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes mellitus can land up an individual in serious complications, which develop gradually. The longer a person has diabetes, and lesser controlled blood sugar, higher is the risk of complications. Eventually, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening. Possible complications include:

  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye damage
  • Foot damage.
  • Skin conditions.
  • Hearing impairment.
  • Loss of all senses in limbs.
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Depression.

Diet for Diabetic Patients:

While a balanced diet is essential for the health of all, diabetics require a specialised diet which can not only help manage and control their blood sugar levels from increasing but also revere diabetes. One of the wisest things to do is to focus on shedding some of those extra kilos.

Following certain food habits can be instrumental in helping diabetics stay healthy.

Foods to Consume in Diabetes

  • Fruits and vegetables—ideally fresh, the more colourful the better; whole fruit rather than juices.
  • Healthy fats from nuts, olive oil, fish oils, flax seeds, or avocados.
  • High-fibre cereals and whole-grain bread.
  • Fish and shellfish, organic chicken or turkey.
  • High-protein foods such as eggs, beans, low-fat dairy, and unsweetened yoghurt.

Foods to Avoid in Diabetes

  • Packaged, processed and fast foods, especially those high in sugar- bakery items, sweets, chips, desserts.
  • Low-fat products that have replaced fat with added sugar, such as fat-free yoghurt.
  • White bread, sugary cereals, refined pasta or rice.
  • Processed meat and red meat.

The Bione MyMicrobiome Test can help you manage your diabetes effectively with few lifestyle changes and personalised diet recommendations:

It helps you discover, determine, understand and analyse all about your gut microbiota. It also gives you an indication of the diseases you may likely suffer from & how you can increase life-span, by adopting a few, lifestyle and diet changes.

Highly recommended for the elderly and people suffering from health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease etc.

About Bione:

Bione, Asia’s 1st Direct-to-consumer Genetic and Microbiome Testing Organisation are committed to offering world-class services. Bione was founded by Dr Surendra K Chikara, a world-renowned genomicist & first person to have brought genomic testing to India.