The classic symptoms of diabetes such as polyuria, polydypsia and polyphagia occur commonly in type 1 diabetes, which has a rapid development of severe hyperglycaemia and also in type 2 diabetes with very high levels of hyperglycaemia. Severe weight loss is common only in type 1 diabetes or if type 2 diabetes remains undetected for a long period. Unexplained weight loss, fatigue and restlessness and body pain are also common signs of undetected diabetes. Symptoms that are mild or have gradual development could also remain unnoticed.
What is type 2 diabetes and prediabetes? Behind type 2 diabetes is a disease where the body’s cells have trouble responding to insulin – this is called insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone needed to store the energy found in food into the body’s cells. In prediabetes, insulin resistance starts growing and the beta cells in the pancreas that release insulin will try to make even more insulin to make up for the body’s insensitivity. This can go on for a long time without any symptoms. Over time, though, the beta cells in the pancreas will fatigue and will no longer be able to produce enough insulin – this is called “beta burnout.” Once there is not enough insulin, blood sugars will start to rise above normal. Prediabetes causes people to have higher-than-normal blood sugars (and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke). Left unnoticed or untreated, blood sugars continue to worsen and many people progress to type 2 diabetes. After a while, so many of the beta cells have been damaged that diabetes becomes an irreversible condition.
Clinical Manifestations. Diabetes mellitus can present a wide variety of symptoms, from none at all to profound ketosis and coma. If the disease manifests itself late in life, patients may not know they have it until it is discovered during a routine examination, or when the symptoms of chronic vascular disease, insidious renal failure, or impaired vision cause them to seek medical help.
1. Monitoring of blood glucose status. In the past, urine testing was an integral part of the management of diabetes, but it has largely been replaced in recent years by self monitoring of blood glucose. Reasons for this are that blood testing is more accurate, glucose in the urine shows up only after the blood sugar level is high, and individual renal thresholds vary greatly and can change when certain medications are taken. As a person grows older and the kidney is less able to eliminate sugar in the urine, the renal threshold rises and less sugar is spilled into the urine. The position statement of the American Diabetes Association on Tests of Glycemia in Diabetes notes that urine testing still plays a role in monitoring in type 1 and gestational diabetes, and in pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes, as a way to test for ketones. All people with diabetes should test for ketones during times of acute illness or stress and when blood glucose levels are consistently elevated.
Diet, exercise, and education are the cornerstones of treatment of diabetes and often the first recommendations for people with mild diabetes. Weight loss is important for people who are overweight. People who continue to have elevated blood glucose levels despite lifestyle changes, or have very high blood glucose levels and people with type 1 diabetes (no matter their blood glucose levels) also require drugs.
There are many complications of diabetes. Knowing and understanding the signs of these complications is important. If caught early, some of these complications can be treated and prevented from getting worse. The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is to keep your blood sugars in good control. High glucose levels produce changes in the blood vessels themselves, as well as in blood cells (primarily erythrocytes) that impair blood flow to various organs.
In this health topic, we explain the dangers of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels, and diabetes. Hyperglycemia causes many of the warning signs of diabetes listed above. Hyperglycemia may be caused by skipping or forgetting your insulin or diabetes medicine, eating too many grams of carbs for the amount of insulin administered, simply eating too many grams of carbs in general, or from stress or infections.