Affecting nearly 37 million Americans, diabetes is one of the most common serious health conditions. Of those with diabetes, Type-2 Diabetes is the most common and accounts for more than 90% of all cases.
Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body processes blood sugar (glucose) and if left unchecked, can result in very serious health problems, including blindness, nerve damage, stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease.
While there are several types of diabetes, pre-diabetes may actually be more common and must be monitored to prevent the development of Type-2 Diabetes.
In this article, we'll take a look at the symptoms of diabetes and pre-diabetes, as well as steps you can take to prevent Type-2 diabetes from developing.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body does not produce enough insulin to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. Insulin is a hormone that all of our cells need to absorb glucose (blood sugar) and use it for fuel.
When people with diabetes do not have enough insulin or cannot use the insulin they have effectively, their bodies cannot convert the food they eat into usable energy.
Instead of using glucose for fuel, your body starts to break down fat stores and produces more acidic waste products (aka harmful compounds) that can lead to serious health problems.
If left untreated, diabetes can cause very serious damage throughout the body, leading to:
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- High blood pressure
- Stroke and heart disease
- Kidney damage (nephropathy)
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 Diabetes (previously known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes), and Type 2 Diabetes (previously called adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes).
Type 1 usually begins in childhood, but it can develop whenever the body's immune system begins to kill off the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Type 1 is also often referred to as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM).
Type 2, the more common type of diabetes, usually develops in adulthood and is associated with obesity.
It has previously been called noninsulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes, but this name is misleading because it can also affect children.
Symptoms of Diabetes
There are a handful of symptoms that can indicate you have diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms can include:
- Extreme Thirst. This may be the first symptom you experience and is caused by your body's need for more water to process all of the extra glucose in your system.
- Frequent Urination. This symptom usually follows shortly after excessive thirst and occurs because your kidneys are trying to expel all of the excess sugar through the urine.
- Extreme Hunger: Not only does diabetes cause your cells to become unable to get the energy they need from glucose, but your body is also broken down fats stores for fuel. As a result, you may feel an intense hunger that isn't relieved by eating.
- Weight Loss. While it may be difficult to lose weight if you have diabetes because of increased hunger and an inability to process calories effectively, extreme weight loss may also indicate that you have diabetes. This is caused by the body breaking down fat stores and muscle tissue for energy because it can't absorb glucose from the food you eat.
- Dry Mouth. As a result of excessive thirst and urination, your mouth may feel dry and taste like cotton or chalk, as it's also trying to expel excess sugar.
- Blurred Vision: if your cells are not getting the energy they need, it can cause you to experience blurred or double vision.
- Fruity Smelling Breath. Your breath may develop a unique, sweet smell that's also caused by your body breaking down fats.
What is Pre-Diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet elevated enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. If you have pre-diabetes, you will have an increased risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes, and it is essential to prevent it.
Pre-diabetes, also known as impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), has some additional symptoms that are subtle and can be easy to misinterpret. These include:
- Increased fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Tingling in the hands, feet, or lips
- Increased thirst
What Can I Do to Prevent Type-2 Diabetes?
If you've been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or experiencing symptoms of diabetes or pre-diabetes, then there are steps you can take right now to help prevent developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Start to Exercise Regularly. If you've been living a sedentary lifestyle and don't exercise much or at all, the first step you need to take is to start an exercise plan.
- Keep Track of Your Glucose Levels. There are now dozens of affordable glucose trackers on the market, which can help you monitor your blood glucose levels daily.
- Monitor Your Diet. The best way to keep your blood sugar levels in check is to make sure you are eating healthy foods that don't spike your blood sugar all at once.
- Schedule Regular Checkups with Your Doctor. If you've been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, you need to make sure you are following the prescribed treatment plan so that your blood sugar levels are in check.
With the right prevention plan, you can keep your blood sugar levels in check and protect yourself from the serious health ramifications that diabetes or pre-diabetes can have.