Diabetes Symptoms: Recognizing the Signs of Diabetes

Fingertip blood sugar measurement in a child

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Of: Caroline Gehrman

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Many people develop diabetes during their lifetime and the symptoms often go unnoticed. But it is important to recognize the signs of diabetes in order to treat it properly.

Bremen – Around 7 million people in Germany are affected by diabetes mellitus – and the trend is on the rise. This was determined by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). In many cases, this is also due to the fact that many people’s dietary and lifestyle habits have deteriorated during the corona pandemic.

The RKI reports, among other things, that after the first year of the pandemic, the pointer on the scales of the Germans showed on average about one kilogram more than before. The increased use of chocolate and a glass or two of wine during lockdown has left its mark on many people, including children and young people.

Symptoms of diabetes often go unnoticed for a long time, depending on the type

Overweight and obesity play a major role in the development of diabetes – at least in the case of type 2 diabetes. An unhealthy diet and lack of exercise also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Depending on the type of diabetes, sufferers often do not notice their condition for a long time. However, there are clear signs that point to one or another type of the disease. But what exactly is the difference between the two types of diabetes?

What is diabetes ? And what is the difference between type 1 and type 2?

Diabetes mellitus is generally a chronic metabolic disease. It is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia, that is to say that the level of sugar in the blood is permanently high. According to the Diabetes Infoportal of Munich Helmholtz Center This is due to the fact that the absorption of sugar (glucose) from the blood into the cells of the body is disturbed. The hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, is needed so that sugar from food can be absorbed and used by cells in the body. Depending on whether production is totally or only partially restricted, there is a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes usually occurs at a young age, but it can also affect adults

Type 1 diabetes usually occurs early, in childhood and adolescence. It is an autoimmune disease. A false immune system reaction leads to irreparable damage to the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The body can then no longer produce insulin and can no longer absorb sugar from the blood into the cells of the body. As a result, the blood sugar level is permanently high.

As an autoimmune disease, the development of this form cannot actually be influenced by lifestyle and dietary habits. However, the RKI points out that “social distancing” through contact restrictions during the corona pandemic has increased the risk of type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents – triggered by psychological stress.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually appear at an early age. (Iconic image) © Science Photo Library/IMAGO

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually more pronounced because the disease does not develop gradually, but usually comes on suddenly and gets worse over a few days or weeks. as first signsthat something is wrong, those affected often notice that they suddenly have a increased thirst, frequent urination and Strength fatigue feel. They are also more susceptible to infections.

If these symptoms occur, many of the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas have often already been destroyed. The diagnosis is usually made because affected individuals have seen a doctor due to frequent urination. You must then inject yourself with insulin for the rest of your life and measure your blood values ​​regularly.

In type 2 diabetes, the signs do not appear at all or only appear gradually

Type 2 diabetes, unlike type 1, develops over a longer period of time. The warning signs are therefore also weaker. In many cases, there are not even any symptoms, even if the disease is more advanced, so it is often only diagnosed by chance or because certain risk factors are present.

Type 2 diabetes usually occurs only from 40 years old on, hence the nickname adult-onset diabetes. The reaction of body cells to the hormone insulin slowly decreases. Blood sugar levels rise because blood sugar is not broken down as efficiently as before. The pancreas then increases the production of insulin to compensate for the cells’ insensitivity to insulin. At some point, however, this is no longer enough, the cells are overwhelmed and closed. Over time, less and less insulin is released.

This form of diabetes is closely linked to certain lifestyle habits that trigger the disease. This includes Obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet. In the early stages of the disease, affected individuals can often achieve improvement in their blood sugar levels by changing their diet or incorporating more exercise into their daily lives. The additional administration of insulin can then possibly even be avoided or greatly reduced.

How can I identify the signs of diabetes in myself?

The permanent elevation in blood sugar levels that occurs in diabetes of any type causes a number of symptoms. According to the Helmholtz Center Munich and RKI, the most typical include:

  • increased urge to urinate (to get rid of blood sugar)
  • feeling thirsty (due to the urge to urinate)
  • Weight loss (frequent urination causes dehydration)
  • skin is dry and itchy (due to lack of fluids)
  • muscular weakness
  • Fatigue (energy source sugar is not properly used)
  • Susceptibility to infections and poor healing (because the immune system is weakened)
  • visual disturbances
  • Bad breath (like acetone, like nail polish)

How is diabetes diagnosed? When should you see a doctor if you have symptoms?

Since diabetes “sugar disease” can have serious consequences such as stroke, heart attack or kidney damage, it is advisable to pay attention to the appearance of typical symptoms and, if necessary, to see a doctor you trust. By measuring the blood sugar level, it is then determined whether diabetes is present and, by means of other tests, what type it is.

The continuation of the treatment is then coordinated in order to allow the persons concerned to have the best possible quality of life despite the disease. In most cases, this will be a mix of insulin injections and lifestyle changes. Obesity should then be reduced as much as possible and the diet should be healthier.

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