Early and Advanced Symptoms of Diabetes

Health and Nutrition
23.10.2019

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood sugar levels are not regulated the way they should be. When food is consumed, carbohydrate is broken down into glucose. The glucose is taken up by blood and transported to other tissues. Pancreas releases insulin hormone which regulates blood sugar levels. 

If pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin released by pancreas efficiently the blood sugar levels become elevated. This condition is called hyperglycaemia which is the result of uncontrolled diabetes. If this condition continues over a long period of time it may cause harm to other organs of the body such as heart, kidneys and eyes (1, 2). 

Early signs of diabetes (2, 3, 4) 

Here are the common symptoms of diabetes

  • Frequent urination (Polyuria)
  • Unusual thirst (Polydipsia)
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irritability

 

Those affected with type 2 diabetes may also suffer from other issues such as

 

  • Frequent and recurring infections of skin, gum, or bladder
  • Wounds such as cuts and bruises may heal slowly 
  • Vision problems
  • Numbness or tingling of hands or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Abdominal obesity

 

Symptoms may be less pronounced in type 2 diabetes so much so that the affected person may not realise that diabetes is creeping up on him/her slowly for some years.

 

Advanced symptoms seen in uncontrolled diabetes

 

Elevated levels of blood glucose for a long period of time lead to several complications in the body. These can be considered as advanced signs and symptoms of diabetes. These symptoms are microvascular and macrovascular complications. These complications are chronic in nature (5).

 

Microvascular complications

 

 

  • Nephropathy

 

 

Hyperglycaemia which is a result of uncontrolled diabetes can result in kidney damage. It is called chronic kidney disease (CKD). If it is not treated timely it can lead to kidney failure. It is one of the most common complications of diabetes, about 1 in 3 people with diabetes end up with chronic kidney disease (6). 

 

Unless regularly monitored by the doctor CKD cannot be detected. If detected early and treated the result will be better.

 

 

  • Retinopathy

 

 

Diabetic retinopathy as it is called can occur in both T1D and T2D. The micro vessel that supply blood to the retina of the eye is affected. Diabetic retinopathy is associated with hyperglycaemia which prevents the cells of retina from getting oxygen (5). 

 

Vison may be permanently impaired if the retinopathy is not caught early and treated (6). 

 

 

  • Neuropathy

 

 

Nerve damage is another common sign of uncontrolled diabetes. This complication is also called diabetic neuropathy. Legs and feet are affected most commonly because of the nerve damage (6). 

 

Diabetes over a period of time may reduce the blood supply to the foot. The high blood glucose levels damage the nerves. It may also begin to gradually affect the nerves which transport nerve impulses to legs. 

Because it affects the feet more often it is also called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms include decreased or no sweating, numbness, burning sensation, weakness and loss of reflexes in the legs and feet (5).

 

Macrovascular complications

 

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke

 

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of suffering from heart diseases and getting a stroke (6).

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis

 

Diabetic acidosis is another complication of long-standing diabetes and it is acute in nature. It is a serious complication when the body produces increased levels of ketones. 

 

When there is less insulin in the system glucose cannot be utilized by the body. Body instead starts using fat as the source of energy and during this process there may be an accumulation of acids known as ketones in the blood.

 

If this condition is not caught and treated on time it may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis which may have very serious implications (7). Ketoacidosis if untreated can result in loss of consciousness or it may even be fatal.

 

Final word

 

If someone has diabetes it is imperative to manage blood glucose levels so that it does not lead to any of the complications. Awareness about early symptoms can help detect and treat diabetes and prevent the onset of advanced signs which are serious complications of uncontrolled diabetes. 

 

References

 

  1. World Health Organisation (2019). Diabetes

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes

 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and prevention (2019).Diabetes

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html

 

  1. Duyff, R.L. (2002) Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Smart eating to prevent and treat disease, 567. American Dietetic Association, Second Edition. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

 

  1. Ramachandran A. (2014) Know the signs and symptoms of diabetes,The Indian journal of medical research. Vol. 140 (5).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311308/

 

  1. Soumya, D. and Srilatha, B. (2011) Late Stage Complications of Diabetes and Insulin Resistance, Journal of Diabetes and Metabolism. Vol. 2(9).

https://www.longdom.org/open-access/late-stage-complications-of-diabetes-and-insulin-resistance-2155-6156.1000167.pdf

 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and prevention (2017). Putting the Brakes on Diabetes Complications

https://www.cdc.gov/features/preventing-diabetes-complications/index.html

 

  1. Mayo clinic (2018). Diabetic ketoacidosis 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-ketoacidosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371551

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