Symptoms of diabetes mellitus, watch out for sudden weight loss, 10 other signals
Diabetes is often termed as a ‘silent disease’, as its early signs may be mild or go unrecognised. It is basically a group of metabolic diseases, characterised by persistent hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels), that result from defects in insulin secretion or action.
“Diabetes results due to the disruption in the way that our body utilises glucose, which is the source of energy for our body cells. Most of the food items that we consume are broken down into glucose. Insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas) is required for the uptake of glucose from the cells. Diabetes results when there is either a deficiency of insulin or resistance to the action of insulin. As a result, the cells cannot take up glucose, resulting in a blood glucose spike,” says Dr Sweta Budyal, Consultant Endocrinologist & Diabetologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.
And while the urge to frequently urinate or excessive thirst is commonly known, there are many symptoms that we are often unaware of. Other common symptoms include excessive hunger, unexplained weight loss, itching, poor wound healing or frequent genital yeast Infections.
“The signs and symptoms of diabetes are rarely dramatic. Before the diagnosis of diabetes, many patients do not report any symptoms at all. However, even in the absence of significant signs and symptoms, elevated blood glucose (mildly elevated too) adversely affects the health of major organs like the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, nerves and blood vessels in the legs. Some patients develop symptoms only when these vital organs are severely damaged. Once there is significant injury to these organs, it cannot be repaired completely,” says Dr Budyal.
Types of diabetes
The most common forms of diabetes are Type 1 diabetes which mostly occurs in childhood, but can be diagnosed in adults as well. It is caused due to immune medicated destruction of Insulin secreting pancreatic cells, leading to complete deficiency of Insulin. Since there is absolute insulin deficiency, the treatment is through insulin injections and pumps.
Type-2 Diabetes is caused due to resistance to the action of Insulin, resulting from interaction of genetic factors and obesity. It is mostly seen is adults, but nowadays is also seen in children and adolescents as well. The risk factors could be a sedentary lifestyle, overeating or less physical activity. It can be managed by modifying lifestyle, doing regular exercise, and may require tablets or insulin later on.
Gestational diabetes is commonly diagnosed during pregnancy, and there is a risk for the foetus during pregnancy if it is not properly managed. Diabetes could also be caused due to diseases of the pancreas, use of certain drugs, a rare genetic syndrome and certain endocrine disorders.
Is diabetes hereditary?
Not all forms of diabetes are hereditary. “Type 2 diabetes is hereditary. In Type 1 diabetes, there is no family history. There are some monogenic type of diabetes (MODY) in which there may be three generations of diabetes history,” says Dr Mihir Raut, Endocrionologist at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital.
Dr Budyal says the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is 5 to 10 times more in people who have parents or siblings affected by it. “Type 2 diabetes is more common in Indians compared to the western population due to genetic factors. Environmental factors that contrite to it are obesity, a high-calorie diet, a sedentary lifestyle, stress and inadequate sleep,” says Dr Budyal.
Watch out for these lesser-known symptoms of diabetes
* Increased tiredness and sleepiness post meals
* Unexplained weight loss
* Retinopathy or blurring of vision
* Neuropathy or tingling or numbness in the feet, non-healing ulcers, deformities in the feet and imbalance
* Silent heart attacks which the patient may feel is acidity
* Males may experience erectile dysfunction
* Blockage of blood vessels in the legs. There may be pain in the legs after walking, poor wound healing, thin skin, brittle nails and gangrene of the toes
* Chest pain, breathlessness, swelling of legs
* Brain strokes
* Excessive frothing of urine, accompanied by swelling of feet, reduced urination, low haemoglobin and frequent fractures
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