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Diabetes Symptoms

All diabetes symptoms are linked to excess glucose levels in the blood.

Increased thirstiness is one symptom of diabetes. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Increased thirstiness is one symptom of diabetes.

Diabetes Symptoms

All diabetes symptoms are linked to excess glucose levels in the blood and, thus, tend to be similar for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The body breaks down carbohydrates in food to produce glucose. Then, insulin transports glucose from the blood to the bodys cells where it is processed into energy. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin. Alternatively, type 2 diabetes has a properly functioning pancreas, but the bodys cells do not use the insulin correctly. Both of these conditions result in glucose stranded in the blood. As the levels of blood glucose rise above normal, diabetes symptoms appear.

Interestingly, the exception seems to be gestational diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic most women with gestational diabetes do not experience noticeable signs of the condition, making a good screening program especially useful in early treatment.

According to the American Diabetes Association studies show that early detection and subsequent treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of serious complications from the disease. This requires knowing what symptoms are identifiable at the onset of diabetes and responding appropriately when these symptoms become present. Common diabetes symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, constant hunger coupled with weight loss, an increase in infections, blurred vision and fatigue.

Excessive Thirst and Urination

Sugar is a hydrophilic molecule that attracts water from its surroundings. This is true whether the sugar is in a kitchen canister or dissolved in blood. When blood glucose levels rise above normal levels, the glucose attracts water from the surrounding tissues. The lack of fluid in the tissues of the body leads to excessive thirst -- the body's signal to take in more fluids. Fulfilling this need by drinking more than usual, along with the excess fluids in the blood due to the high glucose levels, result in a higher than normal urine output. These same symptoms can also be signs of dehydration. Therefore, recent activity or illnesses will likely be taken into account when determining if these symptoms point to diabetes.

Constant Hunger with Rapid Weight Loss

Since glucose is the main energy source for the body and the main source of glucose comes from food, hunger is the bodys first response to a lack of glucose in the cells. Even though there are large amounts of glucose available in the blood, if the body is not making enough insulin or the bodys cells are not responding correctly to the insulin that is made, the glucose cant make its way into the cells where it will be made into the needed energy. The glucose that is not making it into the cells also represents calories that are stranded and not making it into the cells. Frequent urination will also purge more calories than usual. Also, energy-starved cells will attempt to compensate for the lost glucose by depleting fat stores and muscle tissues. All of these events result in rapid weight loss, despite the increased amount of food being eaten. Although these symptoms may also point to various other diseases and conditions, including bulimia, anxiety and hypothyroidism, diabetes is suspected when they occur in combination with frequent urination, excessive thirst and other diabetes symptoms.

Other Possible Diabetes Symptoms

Those with diabetes seem to be more susceptible to slow-healing sores, red and swollen gums, and other infections. Bladder and vaginal infections seem to be especially common in women with diabetes; however, there have been no studies to definitively link the two so the relationship remains largely anecdotal.

Fluid being drawn from tissues due to high glucose levels will also be drawn from areas such as the lens of the eye. This can cause blurred vision and, if left untreated, lead to diabetic retinopathy. This condition, according to the National Eye Institute is a leading cause of blindness in American adults.

The lack of glucose in the cells and subsequent lack of energy, will often cause people with diabetes to feel run down and fatigued. Any of these symptoms alone will not necessarily result in a diagnosis of diabetes. However, since early detection of the disease is essential, any combination of these symptoms should be brought to the attention of a medical care provider. A doctor can easily diagnose diabetes by taking a sample of blood and measuring the amount of glucose present.

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