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STDWatch
Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dec 02, 20227 min read

Diabetes: Symptoms and Causes

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Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases around the world, and it affects millions of people. There are different types of diabetes, which can develop due to different causes and risk factors. The good news is that in most cases, there are many steps you can take to prevent diabetes from developing in the first place.

Keep reading this article to learn all about diabetes now.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects your insulin and blood sugar (glucose) levels. According to the International Diabetes Foundation, you can develop diabetes when your pancreas stops functioning properly to produce insulin, or when your body becomes unable to use insulin correctly.

According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of diabetes has significantly increased in different countries of all income levels. It has been estimated that 422 million people in the world have diabetes, and the disease causes approximately 1.5 million deaths globally each year.

What are the different forms of diabetes?

Not all cases of diabetes are caused by the same mechanisms. According to the CDC, the different types of diabetes include:

  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus: this type of diabetes is linked to genetic inheritance patterns, and it’s thought to be caused by an autoimmune process in which your body attacks its own pancreas cells and destroys them. Signs of diabetes type 1 usually start at an early age (even during early childhood). This type of diabetes accounts for approximately 5-10% of all cases. Patients with type 1 diabetes require insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus: this type of diabetes happens when your body becomes unable to use insulin correctly, although your pancreas still produces the hormone. It typically develops as a multifactorial disease over many years, and it’s usually diagnosed in adults. However, the number of cases of type 2 diabetes have been increasing in younger people, too. This type of diabetes represents anywhere between 90-95% of all cases of the disease. A healthy lifestyle can prevent or delay many cases of type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes: this disease affects pregnant women who didn’t have diabetes before getting pregnant. In most cases, gestational diabetes resolves after childbirth, but it could cause pregnancy complications or health problems for your child. Gestational diabetes also increases your risk of having type 2 diabetes in the future. 
  • Prediabetes: in prediabetes, your blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. The good news is that most cases of prediabetes can be reversed by taking up a healthy lifestyle quickly.

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What causes diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone that triggers the absorption of glucose from your blood into your tissues and cells, where it can be used as fuel. The carbohydrates in the foods that we eat are all metabolized into glucose, regardless of their source. When you can’t produce or utilize insulin effectively, glucose stays in your blood, which leads to elevated blood sugar. Over time, this excess glucose can damage different tissues in your body, leading to organ failure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the exact cause of most cases of diabetes isn’t fully understood. However, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are thought to be a consequence of a combination of factors, including genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

Risk factors for diabetes

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Being obese or overweight
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Age over 35 years old
  • Lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • Have a history of gestational diabetes
  • Have prediabetes
  • Are American Indian, African American, Asian American. Hispanic/Latino

Diabetes symptoms

According to the organization Diabetes UK, some of the most common symptoms and signs of diabetes include:

  • Feeling the urge to go to the toilet frequently, especially at night
  • Feeling extremely thirsty
  • Increased hunger
  • Losing weight without trying to, or without another possible explanation
  • Fatigue
  • Repetitive episodes of genital candidiasis
  • Having injuries or infections that take longer to heal fully
  • Blurry vision

How to know if you have diabetes

It’s important to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing symptoms that could be caused by diabetes. If your doctor suspects that you may have diabetes, they’ll probably order a series of lab tests to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of your condition.

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According to the American Diabetes Association, tests for diabetes diagnosis are typically repeated several times. These tests include:

  • A1C glucose
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG)
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
  • Random (also called Casual) Plasma Glucose Test

How to prevent diabetes

There’s no cure for diabetes, but fortunately, it can be managed or prevented by leading a healthier lifestyle. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, some of the lifestyle recommendations that can help you prevent diabetes include:

  • Controlling your weight
  • Increasing your physical activity
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Avoiding tobacco and smoking
  • Keeping your alcohol consumption light to moderate

Visit STDWatch.com now to learn more about a wide range of health topics, including the best at-home STD test providers.

Sources

What is diabetes - idf.org

Diabetes - who.int

What is Diabetes? - cdc.gov

Diabetes - mayoclinic.org

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes - niddk.nih.gov

Diabetes: The Basics - diabetes.org.uk

Diagnosis - diabetes.org

Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes - hsph.harvard.edu


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