The increasing prevalence of diabetes in the United States raises great concern. Recent reports from the CDC estimate that 30.3 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and only about 25 percent of them are aware of their condition.
It is common for symptoms of diabetes to go unrecognized. A prime contributor of this problem is a lack of awareness regarding the signs of diabetes. To better treat and prevent diabetes, this must change. Increasing understanding of the basic elements of diabetes, its symptoms, and specific warning signs of the condition can help individuals better protect themselves.
The Basics of Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that typically develops later in life. The risk of developing diabetes increases after the age of 45. Type 2 diabetes negatively impacts the production and functionality of a hormone called insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and regulates the amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream. When working properly, insulin and blood glucose levels remain at equilibrium allowing the many cells and tissues throughout the body to function properly.
Type 2 diabetes disrupts the body’s ability to produce insulin and promotes the development of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases the amount of insulin needed to effectively regulate circulating glucose levels and inhibits the transfer of glucose to cells and tissue. If glucose is unable to enter cells, it accumulates in the bloodstream, which contributes to issues of the heart, eyes, limbs, organs, and other areas. Additionally, imposition of blood glucose entering into cells can impede their function and contribute to further malfunctions.
At first, symptoms of type 2 diabetes may appear at a minimal degree. Because of this, type 2 diabetes often goes unnoticed for an extended period. Studies estimate that up to one third of patients with type 2 diabetes are unaware of their condition. As more time passes, symptom severity increases making them easier to recognize. However, at that point, the symptoms have typically already caused long term damage and triggered the development of other health issues. For example, those with unnoticed and untreated type 2 diabetes are likely to develop coronary heart disease, fertility or pregnancy issues, vision loss, and gastrointestinal disruption.
Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes is reversible. Watch as Dr. Holtorf explains how in this video:
6 Major Indicators of Type 2 Diabetes
There are several symptoms highly indicative of type 2 diabetes that everyone should be aware of. Recognizing these symptoms early may allow for better treatment or even prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
If blood glucose levels remain elevated, nerves can be damaged resulting in a condition called diabetic neuropathy. This is typically identified through symptoms such as numbness, tingling, swelling, or pain in the extremities. These sensations may begin as relatively mild but can increase in severity over time. Typically, damage to the nerves is only recognized after diabetes has been present for several years.
Diabetes can cause changes in the tone and texture of skin located in creased areas such as the armpit, neck, and groin. Patches of dark velvety skin, also known as acanthosis nigricans, is a common sign of diabetes that is easily recognizable and may indicate unhealthy blood glucose levels.
Blurry or Loss of Vision
Diabetes affects sight in multiple ways. Our vision relies on proper lens function. As blood sugar levels rise, the lenses become less malleable making it more difficult for them to achieve proper focus. This issue is most prominent when blood sugar levels suddenly change.
Diabetes can also prompt the formation of blood vessels in the retina that may damage previously established cells. If not attended to, this can result in loss of vision. Blurry vision and difficulty focusing are among the earliest signs of diabetes.
Increased glucose in the bloodstream, triggered by type 2 diabetes, causes the kidneys to respond by flushing excess glucose out through urine. Therefore, as blood glucose levels increase, so too does urine production. This action also increases the risk of urinary tract infection. Frequent urination, waking during the night to urinate, and increased urine production are all signs that a person may be diabetic and should seek medical assistance.
Dry Mouth and Thirst
Dry mouth and extreme thirst are some of the most easily noticeable signs of diabetes. The increased production and release of urine caused by diabetes means that the body loses liquids at an accelerated rate. This often results in dehydration, thereby contributing to chronic dry mouth and thirst. If a patient finds that their mouth is often dry or that they are excessively thirsty throughout the day, known as polydipsia, they may be suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Slow Healing Wounds and Infections
Bacteria multiply quicker when blood sugar levels are elevated. Therefore, the likelihood of infection increases as blood glucose is maintained a heightened level. It is further posited that elevated blood sugar may disrupt immune function and circulation, which inhibits the body’s ability to fight off infections. Because of this, is its common for diabetic patients to experience chronic or recurring infection.
Defending Against Diabetes Through Early Detection
Because so many people, specifically in the United States, suffer from diabetes it is important that we be able to easily recognize it. Unfortunately, most are not familiar with the telltale signs of diabetes. Effectively treating and preventing diabetes requires that we be equipped with the knowledge to identify it early. The symptoms discussed above are indicative of diabetes and can be used to help improve diagnosis and formulate an appropriate response. Protect the health of yourself and others by raising awareness of diabetes and looking out for the telltale signs of diabetes.
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