Diabetes Symptoms, Causes, Types and Prevention

icon-blog By -Dr. Kanika Sharma
icon-blog By -December 15, 2023
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Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes Symptoms & Causes

Diabetes, a serious and life changing condition, ranked as the 9th leading cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization. Living with diabetes necessitates meticulous management of blood sugar levels and adopting a healthy lifestyle. While diabetes is controllable, its complications can profoundly impact daily life, and some can lead to fatalities if not promptly addressed. 

Festivities universally involve indulging in sugary treats, a tradition rooted in our upbringing. Expressions of affection often include terms like "honey," "sweetheart," "sugar," or "sweetie pie." While Diwali revolves around laddoos and barfis, Christmas and New Year bring the spotlight to cakes and pastries. While it's essential to savor the festive season, exercising caution is wise, especially for those managing diabetes or prediabetes. Despite a year of hard work, it's crucial not to undermine your progress in just a few weeks.

Christmas festivities may lead to elevated blood sugar levels due to disruptions in routine, indulgent eating, and increased social interactions. A slice of cake, weighing 50 grams, packs around 160-200 calories, with over 30 grams consisting of refined carbohydrates, accompanied by a significant amount of saturated fat. Burning off these calories requires more than an hour of walking or 20 minutes of running or cycling.

Therefore, sustaining a consistent schedule for meals, physical activity, and sleep can pose challenges. Although minor fluctuations are expected, minor increases in blood sugar levels for short periods shouldn't cause excessive concern. Consult your doctor for appropriate blood sugar targets, keeping in mind that post-meal values should ideally stay below 200mg/dl. Regular monitoring is crucial. If the cold weather hinders outdoor activities, consider indoor exercises. Dancing at parties can be an enjoyable and effective workout. Make wise food choices to maintain your overall health. 

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition characterized by elevated blood glucose, commonly known as blood sugar. Glucose serves as the primary energy source for your body, sourced both from internally produced glucose and the food you consume. The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone facilitating the entry of glucose into cells for energy utilization. 

In diabetes, insufficient insulin is produced or it is not utilized effectively, leading to elevated blood glucose levels that fail to reach the cells. The associated risks of diabetes include potential harm to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart, as well as a connection to certain types of cancer. Taking preventive measures or effectively managing diabetes can reduce the likelihood of developing associated health complications.

Types of Diabetes

Following are various types of diabetes:

  • Type 2 diabetes: In this disorder the body doesn’t make sufficient insulin or the body’s cells show insulin resistance. It is the most common type of diabetes, affecting mainly adults.
  • Prediabetes: It's the stage before development of Type 2 diabetes. The blood glucose levels are above the normal values but are below the designated levels of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes: It's an autoimmune disorder where the immune system destroys the body’s own insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Around 10% of diabetic people have Type 1. It generally gets diagnosed in childhood and adolescence.
  • Gestational diabetes: It generally develops in some women during pregnancy and subsides after pregnancy. However, having gestational diabetes may increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

How can one identify the presence of diabetes? Most early indications stem from elevated levels of glucose, a type of sugar, in the bloodstream. These warning signs might be subtle, particularly in the case of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes symptoms for women and men are generally similar except few more conditions that manifest only in men. Some individuals only discover their condition when complications arise from the long-term impact of the disease. The symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes typically manifest rapidly, often within days or a few weeks, and tend to be more severe.

Both types of diabetes share common telltale signs. Following are common Type 2 diabetes symptoms: 

  • Increased hunger and fatigue may arise because cells require insulin to absorb glucose for energy. Without sufficient insulin production or effective utilization by cells, glucose remains in the bloodstream, leading to heightened hunger and fatigue.
  • Frequent urination and increased thirst can also be indicators. Normally, the body reabsorbs glucose in the kidneys, but elevated blood sugar in diabetes may hinder this process, resulting in increased urine production and the need for more fluids. This leads to more frequent urination and heightened thirst.
  • Dry mouth and itchy skin may occur due to fluid utilization for urine production, causing dehydration and a lack of moisture in the body.
  • Changes in fluid levels may affect eye lenses, causing blurred vision as they swell and lose the ability to focus.
  • In addition to above symptoms, diabetes symptoms in men include erectile dysfunction, genital thrush, and reduced muscle mass.

Causes of Diabetes

Diabetes, regardless of its type, is characterized by elevated blood glucose levels. However, the reasons behind high blood glucose differ based on the specific type of diabetes.

The main causes of diabetes are:

Insulin resistance: Primarily associated with Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance occurs when cells in muscles, fat, and the liver fail to respond adequately to insulin. Multiple factors contribute to varying degrees of insulin resistance, such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, dietary habits, hormonal imbalances, genetic factors, and specific medications.

Autoimmune disease: Type 1 diabetes and LADA arise when the immune system targets and damages the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Hormonal imbalances: Pregnancy-related hormonal changes can lead to insulin resistance, potentially resulting in gestational diabetes if the pancreas can't produce enough insulin to counteract this resistance. Other conditions like acromegaly and Cushing syndrome, which involve hormonal imbalances, can also contribute to Type 2 diabetes.

Pancreatic damage: Physical harm to the pancreas, whether due to a medical condition, surgery, or injury, can impede its ability to produce insulin, leading to Type 3c diabetes.

Genetic mutations: Specific genetic mutations are associated with MODY (Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young) and neonatal diabetes.Prolonged use of certain medications: HIV/AIDS medications and corticosteroids, can contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Prolonged use of certain medications: HIV/AIDS medications and corticosteroids, can contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Complications of Diabetes

Diabetes can result in immediate, severe complications as well as long-term issues, primarily stemming from prolonged or extreme elevations in blood sugar levels.

Immediate Complications

Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS): Mainly affecting individuals with Type 2 diabetes, HHS occurs when blood sugar levels exceed 600 mg/dL for an extended period, leading to severe dehydration and confusion. Immediate medical attention is essential.

Diabetes-related ketoacidosis (DKA): Primarily impacting those with Type 1 diabetes or undiagnosed T1D, DKA arises when the body lacks sufficient insulin. Without insulin, the body resorts to breaking down fat, releasing ketones that acidify the blood. Symptoms include labored breathing, vomiting, and loss of consciousness, requiring urgent medical intervention.

Severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): Resulting from blood sugar dropping below healthy levels, severe hypoglycemia, particularly affecting insulin-using individuals with diabetes, manifests as blurred vision, clumsiness, disorientation, and seizures. Emergency glucagon treatment or medical intervention is necessary.

Long-term Complications

Persistently elevated blood glucose levels can cause lasting damage to body tissues and organs, primarily affecting blood vessels and nerves.
Cardiovascular Issues:

Coronary artery disease

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Atherosclerosis

Other Diabetes Complications:

  • Nerve damage (neuropathy) leading to numbness, tingling, or pain
  • Nephropathy potentially resulting in kidney failure, dialysis, or transplant
  • Retinopathy, a risk for blindness
  • Diabetes-related foot conditions
  • Skin infections
  • Amputations
  • Sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness)
  • Gastroparesis
  • Hearing loss
  • Oral health problems like gum disease (periodontal disease)
  • Diabetes can also impact mental health, with individuals facing a two to three times higher likelihood of depression compared to those without diabetes.

Prevention Tip for Diabetes

If you know that you are at risk of developing diabetes, you can prevent or delay developing it. What you need to do is to choose a healthier lifestyle for yourself. Try to make following changes to lead a better and healthy life against diabetes and other lifestyle based ailments:

Shed off extra pounds: Weight control is an important aspect of preventing diabetes. You can prevent or delay diabetes by shedding around 5 to 10% of your current weight. And once you do it, make sure that you don't gain it back.

Follow a healthy diet plan: To lose weight and keep it off, you must cut back on the number of calories you eat and drink each day. Your diet should include less fat and sugar, as well as smaller portions, to achieve that. Along with consuming a range of foods from each food group, you should also consume a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limiting red meat and staying away from processed meats are also wise decisions.

Go for regular exercising: Among the many health advantages of exercise are its ability to help you reduce weight and blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is less likely if you do either of these. Five days a week, try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise. 

Stop smoking: Type 2 diabetes can result from insulin resistance, which is exacerbated by smoking. Try to give up smoking if you already do.

Summing up

Diabetes cannot harm you if you detect it timely and take right prevention measures as early as possible. If you are at risk of getting diabetes due to hereditary reasons or acquired reasons such as stress, lifestyle factors, drinking, or smoking, then following a healthy lifestyle can surely keep diabetes at bay. 


How do I know if I am diabetic?

Increased thirst, peeing a lot, more hunger, numbness/tingling in feet, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss are few indicators of high blood sugar levels. If you notice such symptoms, reach out to your doctor to get confirmed on your diabetes.

What are early warning signs of diabetes?

Frequent peeing, increased thirst, more hunger, numbness/tingling in feet, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss are some early warning signs of diabetes.

Can you get diabetes later in life?

Yes, you can get diabetes later in life. Your lifestyle factors, stress levels, family history, or medications you are taking regularly can make you more vulnerable to diabetes at any instance of your life.

What are 6 things you can do to prevent diabetes?

Reduce weight, stop smoking and consuming alchool, eat a healthy, get routine body check up regularly, and limit your sugar intake are 6 things you can do to prevent diabetes.

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