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Medical:  Diabetes - Disease Symptoms

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the level of blood glucose of a person is higher than normal. Symptoms include frequent urination accompanied by unusual thirst, dramatic change in weight, blurring of vision, lack of energy, and many more. However, not all people who actually have diabetes show these symptoms.

Diabetes can already be quietly creeping inside your system without you knowing it, especially on its early stages. According to the current statistics of the American Diabetes Association, there are about 20.8 million people, in the US alone, who have diabetes. Among these, around 14.6 million were diagnosed to have the disease, while an alarming 6.2 million people or nearly 30% of those who have diabetes do not know that they already have it.

How to Fight this Stealth Disease?
The first way to prevent diabetes, and probably the most important, is early diagnosis. The earlier this disease is diagnosed in your system, the sooner you can take action in managing it and, in turn, prevent further complications.

Having a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise combined with a healthy diet is also one way of preventing, or managing, diabetes especially Type 2.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
Someone who is addicted to sugar or sweets is not necessarily a diabetic. Diabetes is a serious illness brought about by a person’s genetic disposition: his likelihood to develop a pancreatic disease. If your family is prone to the disease, read this article to detect the symptoms of diabetes as early as possible.

Type I Diabetes
Type I is known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). It is less common in the US though is the most severe and usually develops within a few days or weeks. In IDDM, the lack of insulin stems from destruction of the beta cells. The symptoms associated with IDDM are so distinct that they rarely leave any doubt of the diagnosis:

  • Polyuria: Urinating frequently and in large amounts is a classic symptom of diabetes, as the body rushes fluids through the kidney to dilute the high levels of sugar in the urine.
  • Polydipsia: An unusual thirst is a natural result of too frequent urination: the body is signaling for lost fluids to be replaced. Dehydration will eventually occur if the condition is not caught early.
  • Polyphagia: This feeling of extreme hunger stems from the body's belief that it is starving because glucose is not reaching its cells to provide desperately needed energy.
  • Rapid Weight Loss: Most Type I patients are at or below their ideal weight. When IDDM begins, they may suddenly lose more weight—as much as 15 pounds in a week—even though they may be eating more than enough and have a good appetite. The lack of insulin means that calories, in the form of glucose, are being sent out through the urine and the body is beginning to burn fat reserves.
  • Weakness: Since muscle cells are not receiving their usual fuel, energy flags. Of course, fatigue can have many causes, which is why diabetes can go unrecognized for so long. Be concerned if a once active child seems tired, drowsy, or listless for no apparent reason. Some children may also complain of stomach, leg, or chest pains, or have difficulty breathing.
  • Irritability: In youngsters, crankiness, confusion or excessive crying may warn of impending illness. A child may seem to be inattentive or may not be doing as well in school as before.
  • Nausea and/or Vomiting: These symptoms may precede ketoacidosis, as poisonous ketone acids build up in the blood when the body must resort to burning fat deposits for energy.
  • Blurred Vision: Excess glucose may be seeping into the eye, changing the shape of the lens. Difficulty in focusing or changes in eyesight from one day to the next—such as from nearsighted to normal vision—are other visual cues for possible diabetes.

Type II Diabetes
Type II, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), makes up the majority of diabetes cases. Unlike Type I, Type II progresses more slowly. It can creep along unnoticed for years. Symptoms may appear gradually, becoming more intense or frequent with age. See your doctor as soon as you observe any of the following:

  • Any of Type I symptoms
  • Tingling or Numbness in Legs, Feet, or Fingers: Or you may have a burning sensation or heightened sensitivity in these extremities or on other spots on your skin. Symptoms, such as leg cramps, may appear or worsen only at night. Again, these may be signs that circulation is poor or that nerve damage is already progressing.
  • Frequent Infections: Diabetes weakens the body's defenses against invasions of bacteria. Infections of the gums, urinary tract, or skin that keep recurring or take a long time to clear up show that the disease may have begun interfering with the immune system.
  • Itching of Skin or Genitals: This may be the result of an underlying infection or dehydration, a common by-product of diabetes.
  • Slow Healing of Cuts and Bruises: Because diabetes affects how cells use the nutrients obtained from food, the body may have difficulty repairing damaged tissue. Diabetes also thickens blood vessels, slowing circulation and preventing wounds from receiving, through the blood, these needed nutrients and oxygen.
  • Unfortunately, too many of these symptoms can be overlooked or blamed on other conditions. Make sure to have your blood sugar level checked yearly, at the very least, and more frequently if there are manifestations of any of the symptoms above.
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Type I and Type II Diabetes

Type I is contracted genetically. Most of the patients of this type are boys and girls of around 15 years old. It is because of this trend that experts have interchanged the term Type I diabetes with Juvenile Onset Diabetes.

Diabetics of this type need to have insulin administered regularly into their system. As of now, the most common method for delivering the hormone is through injections. Other delivery systems are also being developed, the most recent of which is an oral spray that eliminates the need for hypodermic needles. This measure simply manages the condition but does not fully address the problem of curing it.

Type II diabetes - Findings show that overweight and obese individuals are very likely to contract the disease and their chances of succumbing to the complications brought by the disease increase significantly. To manage the disease, Type II diabetics are instructed to exercise regularly, limit their carbohydrate and sugar intake and when absolutely necessary, have insulin administered artificially.

Your Cardiovascular System and Diabetes
Cardiovascular system is comprised of the heart, blood and blood vessels. Blood is being pumped out from the heart and is the one responsible in delivering oxygen and other nutrients to all the parts of the body. It also cleans up our body by picking up the waste products on its way back to the heart so our body can get rid of them.

Since blood is part of the cardiovascular system, and diabetes is a condition in which the level of glucose in the blood is higher than normal, then there must be some relationship between the two.

Diabetes and cardiovascular system diseases has been recognized to be closely related to each other for some time now due to the so-called insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome. Among the 20 million people in the United States who have diabetes, around 5 to 6 million of this population who are aged 35 years and above were diagnosed to have a certain cardiovascular disease according to the National Diabetes Surveillance System. Some examples of the commonly diagnosed cardiovascular disease are coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and other heart conditions.

Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause now of deaths related to diabetes. In a study published few years back in the Journal of the American Medical Association, deaths due to some heart conditions went up by 23% in diabetic women despite the 27% drop of the same in non-diabetic women. As for diabetic men, there is only about 13% decrease in heart disease related deaths as compared to the 36% drop in non-diabetics.

Risk Factors
Diabetes is now considered by the American Heart Association a major risk factor in cardiovascular diseases. Other factors that contribute to the possibility of acquiring cardiovascular diseases in diabetic patients include hypertension, smoking, and dyslipidemia.

- Hypertension. Hypertension in diabetes is considered a major contributor to the increase in mortality from cardiovascular diseases. Diabetic patients, especially those with Type 2, need to have their blood pressure checked on every visit to the doctor. Self-monitoring at home is also a must. The American Diabetes Association recommends a target blood pressure of not more than 130/85 mm Hg.

- Hyperglycemia. Intensive glycemic control may prove to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, although not directly.

- Smoking. Smoking has been determined dangerous to our health. Studies show that smoking indeed increase risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients.

There are many ways to reduce the possibility of cardiovascular events in diabetic patients.

The simplest step one can start with is to stop smoking. Maintaining blood pressure to less than 130/85 or 130/80 mm Hg helps control the occurrence of hypertension. Having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 27 is also a must for diabetic patients to control their overall condition.

Some tests are also recommended to monitor and maintain key factors at a healthy level. These tests include annual urine test, retinal dilation examination, dental examinations, and biannual foot examination for sensation testing and measurement of pulses. Influenza and pnuemococcal immunizations also help in proper maintenance.

Regular visits to your health practitioner are recommended, for proper medications and advice in order to control the condition.

NEXT: Diabetes Treatment

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