How to determine whether you have Diabetes?

“Diabetes at least doubles a person’s risk of death!”

People can often have Diabetes and be completely unaware. The main reason for this is that the symptoms, when seen on their own, seem harmless. This is also the reason why Diabetes at least doubles a person’s risk of death.

Main symptoms of Diabetes
Main symptoms of Diabetes / Photo credit: Mikael Häggström/WikiPedia

The earlier Diabetes is diagnosed the greater the chances are that serious complications (which can result from having Diabetes) can be avoided.

Here is a list of the most common Diabetes symptoms:

  • Frequent urination: Have you been going to the bathroom to urinate more often recently? Do you notice that you spend most of the day going to the toilet? When there is too much glucose (sugar) in your blood you will urinate more often. If your insulin is ineffective, or not there at all, your kidneys cannot filter the glucose back into the blood. The kidneys will take water from your blood in order to dilute the glucose – which in turn fills up your bladder.
  • Disproportionate thirst: If you are urinating more than usual, you will need to replace that lost liquid. You will be drinking more than usual. Have you been drinking more than usual lately?
  • Intense hunger: As the insulin in your blood is not working properly, or is not there at all, and your cells are not getting their energy, your body may react by trying to find more energy – food. You will become hungry.
  • Weight gain: This might be the result of the above symptom (intense hunger).
  • Unusual weight loss: This is more common among people with Type 1 Diabetes. As your body is not making insulin it will seek out another energy source (the cells aren’t getting glucose). Muscle tissue and fat will be broken down for energy. As Type 1 Diabetes is of a more sudden onset and Type 2 Diabetes is much more gradual, weight loss is more noticeable with Type 1 Diabetes.
  • Increased fatigue: If your insulin is not working properly, or is not there at all, glucose will not be entering your cells and providing them with energy. This will make you feel tired and listless.
  • Irritability: Irritability can be due to your lack of energy.
  • Blurred vision: This can be caused by tissue being pulled from your eye lenses. This affects your eyes’ ability to focus. With proper treatment this can be treated. There are severe cases where blindness or prolonged vision problems can occur.
  • Cuts and bruises do not heal properly or quickly: Do you find cuts and bruises take a much longer time than usual to heal? When there is more sugar (glucose) in your body, its ability to heal can be undermined.
  • More skin and/or yeast infections: When there is more sugar in your body, its ability to recover from infections is affected. Women with Diabetes find it especially difficult to recover from bladder and vaginal infections.
  • Itchy skin:  A feeling of itchiness on your skin is sometimes a symptom of Diabetes.
  • Gums are red and/or swollen – Gums pull away from teeth: If your gums are tender, red and/or swollen this could be a sign of Diabetes. Your teeth could become loose as the gums pull away from them.
  • Frequent gum disease/infection: As well as the previous gum symptoms, you may experience more frequent gum disease and/or gum infections.
  • Sexual dysfunction among men: If you are over 50 and experience frequent or constant sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction), it could be a symptom of Diabetes.
  • Numbness or tingling, especially in your feet and hands: If there is too much sugar in your body your nerves could become damaged, as could the tiny blood vessels that feed those nerves. You may experience tingling and/or numbness in your hands and feet.

Doctors can determine whether a patient has a normal metabolism, Pre-Diabetes or Diabetes in one of three different ways – there are three possible tests:

  • The Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test
  • The A1C test
  • The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

The Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test

Diabetes
Fasting plasma glucose

2-h plasma glucose (Venous plasma glucose 2 hours after ingestion of 75 g oral glucose load)

HbA1c

≥ 7.0 mmol/L (126 mg/dl)

or

≥ 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dl)

or

≥ 6.5%

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)
Fasting plasma glucose

2-h plasma glucose (Venous plasma glucose 2 hours after ingestion of 75 g oral glucose load)

< 7.0 mmol/L (126 mg/dl)

and

≥ 7.8 and < 11.1 mmol/L (140 mg/dl and 200 mg/dl)

Impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
Fasting plasma glucose

2-h plasma glucose (Venous plasma glucose 2 hours after ingestion of 75 g oral glucose load)

6.1 to 6.9 mmol/L (110 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl)

and (if measured)

< 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dl)

Gestational Diabetes (GDM)
One or more of the following:

Fasting plasma glucose

1-h plasma glucose (Venous plasma glucose 1 hour after ingestion of 75 g oral glucose load)

2-h plasma glucose

5.1–6.9 mmol/L (92–125 mgl/dl)

≥ 10.0 mmol/L (180 mg/dl)

 

8.5–11.0 mmol/L (153–199 mg/dl)

The A1C test

A1C test is a measure of your average blood sugar over the previous 3 months. This test requires only a small amount of blood and no fasting.

  • at least 6.5% means Diabetes
  • between 5.7% and 5.99% means Pre-Diabetes
  • less than 5.7% means normal

The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

  • at least 200 mg/dl means Diabetes
  • between 140 and 199.9 mg/dl means Pre-Diabetes
  • less than 140 mg/dl means normal

An abnormal reading following the OGTT means the patient has Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT).

Although it is very important to mention that in people who do not have symptoms, a positive test for Diabetes should be repeated on another day.

Diabetes is a “silent killer”. It feels and seems harmless, however any of the previously mentioned symptoms could lead to early death which you can avoid with a usually free blood sugar level test.

So if any of the main symptoms fits you it could be a life saving act to do the test for blood sugar level immediately, especially if you are experiencing Frequent urination, Disproportionate thirst, Intense hunger, Weight gain or Unusual weight loss.

Blood glucose measurement is relatively simple, cheap and should be available at primary health-care level. Not to mention that if you do not feel confident to visit a doctor, than you have many other options. For instance many stores selling Diabetes related products and various institutions offer free blood glucose testing.

For example the American wholesale chain CastCo offers free of charge Diabetes A1C tests in their healthcare clinics and pharmacies. This test requires only a small amount of blood and no fasting, and usually you have your result in seconds.


Researched, collected and written by Zsolt Szemerszky

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