July 21, 2022

Diabetes Symptoms: What You Need to Know

Diabetes management isn’t always an easy task, but you’ll need to work hard at it. Learn about diabetes symptoms and management with US MED.


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Home / Living with Diabetes / Diabetes Symptoms: What You Need to Know

Diabetes management isn’t always an easy task, but you’ll need to work hard at it if you’ve been diagnosed with any form of this disease. If you aren’t able to keep your blood sugar in range, you could encounter all sorts of unpleasant complications and symptoms of diabetes. 

 There’s a lot you’ll need to know about diabetes before you can manage this illness successfully. Whether you’re wondering, “What are symptoms of diabetic conditions?” or “How do I keep my diabetes symptoms under control?,” keep reading for our diabetes symptoms guide. 

What is diabetes? 

Simply put, diabetes is a health condition affecting your body’s ability to convert food into energy. When you consume food, most of it is converted into a type of sugar called “glucose.” That glucose goes into your bloodstream, and increased blood sugar levels tell the pancreas to release insulin – the “key” allowing glucose to enter the cells that use it as a fuel source. 

The process described above is how blood glucose should function, but diabetes throws some problems into the works. Depending on the form of diabetes you have, your body may not make its own insulin or may have problems using insulin effectively. That means your blood sugar levels can quickly get too high, eventually leading to severe complications if you don’t take steps to manage diabetes. 

Unlike some illnesses, diabetes is a chronic (that is, lifelong) condition. While diabetes is incurable, medications such as pills, injectables or insulin and common-sense steps like getting physical activity and sticking to a healthy diet can help people with diabetes manage this disease. 

What are the early signs for diabetes? 

Regardless of your type of diabetes, the first warning signs of diabetes won’t change. Look out for: 

  • Unusually high fatigue and hunger 
  • Increased thirst and urination 
  • Blurry vision 
  • Itchy skin 
  • Dry mouth

In some cases, people can have elevated blood sugar levels without actually having diabetes. This condition, referred to as “prediabetes,” is not technically a form of diabetes. It also has few associated signs and symptoms, so it is usually diagnosed through various blood tests. However, since it can put you at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, it’s crucial to make lifestyle changes if you get diagnosed with prediabetes. 

What are the symptoms of diabetes? 

Later diabetes symptoms can vary to a certain extent based on the type of diabetes you have. Here’s a breakdown of what that means: 

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes 

Along with the symptoms described above, type 1 diabetes is linked to unexpected weight loss. When you aren’t getting enough glucose energy, your body may be forced to burn fat and muscle for energy instead. 

Type 1 diabetes symptoms may also include vomiting or a sense of nausea and abdominal pain. That can be associated with diabetic ketoacidosis – a dangerous complication of diabetes caused by the buildup of ketones in your blood when fat is burned for energy and you do not have enough insulin in the body and the glucose levels go high above 250mg/dL. . Untreated diabetic ketoacidosis can be fatal, so make sure to seek medical attention if you notice this symptom! 

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes 

In contrast to type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes symptoms can take quite a long time to make themselves known. This form of diabetes generally starts well into adult life, but children and teens can develop it, too. In any case, it may take years before you begin to notice symptoms of type 2 diabetes – with that in mind, be sure to read up on the risk factors associated with this disease. 

What is hypoglycemia? 

Essentially, hypoglycemia is another word for “low blood sugar.” While diabetes is often thought of in terms of elevated blood sugar, treatment efforts can push your glucose levels too far in the other direction. Signs of hypoglycemia include: 

  • A numb sensation in your cheeks, lips, or tongue 
  • Weakness or tiredness 
  • Hunger 
  • Dizziness 
  • Confusion 
  • Irritability 
  • A “sweaty” or “clammy” feeling 
  • Anxiety 
  • Shakiness 

What is hyperglycemia? 

Hyperglycemia is the opposite of hypoglycemia – blood sugar levels that are too high. Naturally, many of the signs associated with this condition are similar to those associated with diabetes in general: 

  • Slow healing of sores and cuts 
  • Infections of the skin or vagina 
  • Unexpected weight loss 
  • Fatigue 
  • Numbness in extremities, especially the feet 
  • Hunger and thirst 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Blurred vision 

What are the diabetes symptoms for women? 

Most diabetes symptoms are seen in both men and women. Diabetes symptoms women often experience include: 

  • Vaginal itching/pain 
  • Vaginal yeast infections 
  • Oral thrush 
  • Reduced sex drive 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome 
  • UTIs 

In addition, it should be noted that pregnant women can experience a separate form of diabetes known as “gestational diabetes.” Unusually, this type of diabetes is often temporary – it should go away shortly after giving birth. If you are pregnant, your doctor will run a gestational diabetes check between the 24th and 28th weeks of your pregnancy. 

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What are the diabetes symptoms for men? 

Like women, men can experience a lower sex drive due to diabetes. Some other diabetic symptoms men may encounter are: 

  • Low testosterone 
  • Retrograde ejaculation 
  • Erectile dysfunction 

What are the causes of diabetes? 

The factors causing diabetes vary depending on the type of diabetes you have: 

Causes of type 1 diabetes 

No one quite knows what causes type 1 diabetes. What we do know is that it usually manifests as an autoimmune disorder – a condition where a person’s immune system inadvertently attacks parts of their own body. Since type 1 diabetes involves the immune system attacking the pancreas, people with that disease will eventually be incapable of producing enough insulin to meet their needs. 

Causes of type 2 diabetes 

Like type 1 diabetes, the exact causes of type 2 diabetes are still unknown. That said, the disease involves the pancreas getting “burnt out” and gradually losing its ability to produce enough insulin, along with heightened levels of insulin resistance elsewhere in the body. 

Causes of prediabetes 

Prediabetes is basically an early form of type 2 diabetes, so it is influenced by the same factors affecting the development of that disease. However, if you have prediabetes, you may still be able to reverse your diabetes progression through lifestyle changes. 

Causes of gestational diabetes 

Gestational diabetes is the result of changing hormone levels during pregnancy. Along with their other roles in the body, hormones can affect how blood sugar is managed. Since the hormone changes related to pregnancy are not permanent, the same is usually true for this condition. 

What are the risk factors of diabetes? 

Different forms of diabetes come with different risk factors, as well. 

Risk factors of type 1 diabetes 

The risk factors for some types of diabetes are well-known, but the same is not true for type 1 diabetes. However, a few factors are understood to be associated with this disease. If type 1 diabetes runs in your family, or if you are relatively young, you may have a heightened risk of type 1 diabetes. White people are also more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than people of other races. 

Risk factors of type 2 diabetes 

Some of the risk factors tied to type 2 diabetes include: 

  • Excess weight 
  • Age (45 years or older) 
  • A family history of type 2 diabetes 
  • Low physical activity levels 
  • A history of gestational diabetes 
  • Having a child that weighed more than nine pounds at birth 
  • Race (you may have a higher type 2 diabetes risk if you are African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian American/Pacific Islander) 
  • A diagnosis of prediabetes or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease 

Risk factors of prediabetes 

Because prediabetes is so closely linked to type 2 diabetes, most of the risk factors listed in the previous section also apply to prediabetes. Prediabetes symptoms are often limited, so getting tested may be a good idea if you are at risk for this condition. 

Risk factors of gestational diabetes 

You have a significant risk of developing gestational diabetes symptoms if you: 

  • Have already experienced this condition 
  • Have previously birthed a child weighing over nine pounds 
  • Are older than 25 years of age 
  • Have a history of type 2 diabetes in your family 
  • Are overweight 
  • Have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome 
  • Are Native Hawaiian or belong to an ethnic group with an increased type 2 diabetes risk  

How is diabetes diagnosed? 

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes can seemingly appear out of nowhere, making it obvious when you need blood sugar testing. The same is not true for other diabetes types, which tend to develop more gradually. As a result, the American Diabetes Association has implemented diabetes screening guidelines: 

  • If you have a BMI above 25 (or 23 if you are Asian American) and other risk factors, you should get a diabetes screening regardless of your age. 
  • If you are above the age of 45, you should get a blood sugar screening and follow-up screenings every three years. 
  • If you have experienced gestational diabetes, you should also get screenings every three years. 
  • If you have a prediabetes diagnosis, you should get screenings annually. 

When should I contact a medical doctor? 

It’s wise to contact your doctor to set up a diabetes screening if you fall into any categories shown above. By diagnosing diabetes ASAP, you can reduce or avoid the effects of serious complications (including neuropathy symptoms, diabetic retinopathy symptoms, and more). 

What are my treatment options for diabetes? 

As with most things related to diabetes, this varies based on the type of diabetes you have: 

Treatment options for type 1 diabetes 

All types of diabetes – including type 1 diabetes – can be managed with the help of diet and exercise. That means you should work with your healthcare team to develop a healthy meal plan abetes diet that’s right for you and aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. 

Along with that, you’ll need to follow an insulin treatment schedule to live with type 1 diabetes successfully. Your doctor will prescribe the right type or types of insulin for you based on your unique needs. You can use several insulin delivery methods, ranging from traditional needles to insulin pens and pumps. 

Treatment options for type 2 diabetes 

In many ways, treating type 2 diabetes is similar to treating type 1 diabetes. You’ll still want to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and keep track of your blood sugar. However, many people do not need to take insulin to manage type 2 diabetes. If that’s the case for you, you might not have to test your blood glucose levels as often as you would while taking insulin. 

Treatment options for prediabetes 

By definition, prediabetes is not diabetes when it is diagnosed. As such, the treatment of this condition focuses on reversing or slowing its progress through diet and exercise. If you have an exceptionally high diabetes risk, you may also choose to take metformin or other medications. 

Treatment options for gestational diabetes 

Managing blood sugar levels with gestational diabetes is crucial, as the complications of this disease can affect both you and your baby. You should try to follow a healthy meal plan , get regular, moderate physical activity, monitor your blood glucose, and take medications if needed. 

What diabetes supplies will I need? 

The exact supplies you will need to manage diabetes depend on the type of diabetes you have, the severity of your condition, and other factors. Some standard supplies used to manage diabetes include: 

CGMs 

Continuous glucose monitors allow for reliable blood sugar tracking around the clock. These devices cannot totally replace “standard” blood sugar tests – you’ll still need to use finger prick testing in some situations. Still, a CGM can significantly reduce your dependency on traditional blood glucose testing. 

Diabetes testing supplies 

This category includes traditional blood glucose meters and any accessories designed to work with them. If you’re shopping for a glucose meter, you’ll also need test strips, lancets, a lancing device and control solutions. 

Insulin pumps 

When you rely on insulin to treat diabetes, insulin pumps are an easy way to deliver this medication. You can choose between a traditional insulin pump and smaller, tubeless “Pods” for your insulin delivery needs. 

Smart insulin pens 

Even if you don’t use an insulin pump for insulin delivery, you can still benefit from modern technology. Today’s insulin pens can track your insulin delivery schedule and provide recommendations based on this data. 

How can I prevent diabetes? 

In some cases, you can prevent type 2 diabetes when you are in the prediabetes window  with dietary measures and physical activity. On the other hand, there is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. 

Avoid Diabetes Symptoms with Supplies from US MED 

Diabetes symptoms may seem like a fact of life, but they don’t have to be. With a strong diabetes management strategy, you can live your best life while minimizing or even eliminating these symptoms. To do that, you’ll need continued access to all the diabetes supplies you count on. Take a look at what US MED has to offer today! 

Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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