What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes?

Diabetes is often referred to as the silent killer -- because so many of its symptoms can be easily overlooked. Find out the signs and symptoms of diabetes.

Diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin for the body (Type I) or when cells in the body become resistant to the insulin and cannot use as much of it at one time (Type II), can affect people at any age. However, Type II diabetes is more commonly found in older adults, usually those over age 40, and particularly in adults that are overweight.

Type II diabetes is considered somewhat preventable with proper diet, exercise, and weight management. Individuals with a family history of diabetes and individuals of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Island, or Native American heritage are at greater risk for developing Type II diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), these ethnic groups are at significantly higher risk for the disease, and diabetes affects 10.8% of all African Americans, 10.6% of Mexican Americans, and 12.2% of Native Americans, while the overall prevalence of diabetes in the general population is about 5.2%. As a rule, individuals who are over 40 years old and those who weigh 20 percent more than their ideal weight or more are also at higher risk of developing the disease, and within these specific ethnic groups, the percentage of individuals with diabetes increases even more when combined with these factors.

While it's very easy to test for diabetes, a simple blood glucose test is the determining factor, diabetes may not be easily recognized at first since so many of its symptoms are also common complaints for people who do not have diabetes. For this reason, diabetes may often go undiagnosed for a period of time before it is discovered and treated, if it is discovered in time to prevent complications.

Frequent urination, particularly at night, can also be a symptom of diabetes, but this symptom alone would not necessarily suggest the disease either. This symptom would also have to become pretty annoying and recurrent before it would prompt most people to consult a doctor.

Unexplained weight loss is another possible sign of diabetes but again, not a significant indication that the individual necessarily has diabetes. In many cases, people who want to lose weight would consider this an unexpected blessing and might not consult their doctor unless they had lost a considerable amount of weight over a period of time.

Fatigue is a classic symptom of the disease. However, fatigue also accompanies many, many other conditions, some of which are serious and others of which may be just simple virus bugs. So fatigue alone, unless it become debilitating, is unlikely to send someone to the doctor for a blood test.



Difficulty with erections in men may be a sign - although this difficulty certainly doesn't conclusively indicate diabetes - but since it is an often-embarrassing subject for some men to talk about, this symptom may not lead to a prompt diagnosis and treatment. In fact, many men will avoid drawing attention to this problem at all.

Skin infections, wounds that are slow to heal, particularly sores on the feet and ankles, and recurrent vaginal infections (in women), are signs of possible diabetes that are somewhat more likely to draw attention and result in a diagnosis.

Blurred vision and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet are also possible indicators of diabetes, and since these symptoms can be troublesome, are more likely to result in medical attention and diagnosis.

Individuals who experience several of the above-mentioned symptoms may have good reason to suspect diabetes, particularly if they are in any of the higher risk categories, and should contact their physician to request a simple blood glucose test which can either confirm or rule out diabetes.

According to the ADA, 15.7 million people in the United States currently have diabetes. That's nearly 6% of the population. Unfortunately, the ADA estimates more than one third of those individuals are not aware they have the disease and may go untreated.

Untreated or uncontrolled, diabetes can cause comas, blindness, kidney disease and kidney failure, nerve disease and amputations, heart disease, and/or stroke.

Among diseases, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and may also contribute to many more deaths.

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