World Diabetes Day: Early warning signs of type 2 diabetes
World Diabetes Day takes place on Saturday 14 November and the theme for this year is “The Nurse and Diabetes”.
This campaign aims to raise awareness around the crucial role that nurses play in supporting people living with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes high blood sugar levels and can lead to serious health issues when left untreated. Early signs and symptoms can include frequent urination, increased thirst, feeling tired and hungry, vision problems, slow wound healing, and yeast infections.
WHAT CAUSES TYPE 2 DIABETES?
Type 2 diabetes is caused when the insulin which the pancreas produces is either not enough or does not work properly. Approximately 85% to 90% of all people with diabetes are type 2 and many who have this condition may be undiagnosed.
TYPE 2 DIABETES: EARLY SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
When blood sugar levels are high the kidneys try to remove the excess sugar by filtering it out of the blood. This can lead to a person needing to urinate more frequently, particularly at night.
The frequent urination that is necessary to remove excess sugar from the blood can result in the body losing additional water. This can over time cause dehydration and lead to a person feeling more thirsty than usual.
Constant hunger or thirst can be early signs of type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes often do not get enough energy from the food they eat and often feel constantly hungry regardless of how recently they have eaten.
LOW ENERGY LEVELS
Type 2 diabetes can impact on a person’s energy levels and cause them to feel very tired or fatigued. This tiredness occurs as a result of insufficient sugar moving from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.
An excess of sugar in the blood can damage the tiny blood vessels in the eyes which can cause blurry vision. This blurry vision can occur in one or both of the eyes and may come and go.
If a person with diabetes goes without treatment the damage to these blood vessels can become more severe and permanent vision loss may eventually occur.
SLOW HEALING OF WOUNDS
High levels of sugar in the blood can damage the body’s nerves and blood vessels, which can impair blood circulation. As a result even small cuts and wounds may take weeks or months to heal. Slow wound healing also increases the risk of infection.
BLOOD CIRCULATION AFFECTED
High blood sugar levels can affect blood circulation and damage the body’s nerves. This can lead to pain or a sensation of tingling or numbness in the hands and feet in people with type 2 diabetes.
This condition is known as neuropathy. It can worsen over time and lead to more serious complications if a person does not get treatment for their diabetes.
PATCHES OF DARK SKIN
Patches of dark skin forming on the creases of the neck, armpit or groin can also signify a higher risk of diabetes. These patches may feel very soft and velvety. This skin condition is known as acanthosis nigricans.
Excess sugar in the blood and urine provides food for yeast which can lead to infection. Yeast infections tend to occur on warm, moist areas of the skin such as the mouth, genital areas and armpits.
The affected areas are usually itchy, but a person may also experience burning, redness and soreness.
EARLY DIAGNOSIS MAY HELP PREVENT COMPLICATIONS
The recognition of early signs of type 2 diabetes can allow a person to get a diagnosis and treatment sooner. This includes making lifestyle changes and controlling blood sugar levels which will improve a person’s health and quality of life. This will also reduce the risk of complications.
High blood sugar levels without treatment can lead to severe and sometimes life threatening complications. This includes the following:
- Heart disease;
- Nerve damage, or neuropathy;
- Foot problems;
- Kidney disease, which can result in a person needing dialysis;
- Eye disease or loss of vision; and
- Sexual problems in both men and women.
UNTREATED DIABETES CAN LEAD TO HHNS
The fact is that untreated diabetes can also lead to hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS) which causes a severe and persistent increase in blood sugar levels.
An illness or infection will usually trigger HHNS which can require hospitalization. This sudden complication tends to affect older people.
The longer that blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the risk of other health problems.
SEE A DOCTOR FOR AN EVALUATION
Anyone who experiences possible signs and symptoms of diabetes should see a doctor for an evaluation, especially if they have other risk factors for developing this condition. The early detection and treatment of type 2 diabetes can improve a person’s quality of life and reduce the risk of severe complications.
Take part in virtual Global Diabetes Walk
Yet, there’s something we all can do about Type 2 diabetes, no matter where we live.
Regular exercise helps keep blood sugar levels stable, reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases and improves well-being.
Each year, the International Diabetes Federation marks World Diabetes Day with a global campaign promoting diabetes awareness and advocacy. The Global Diabetes Walk is the WDF’s contribution to this important campaign.
In an effort to keep the spirit and the annual Durban Wellness Festival and Global Diabetes Walk alive, the public is encouraged to put on their walking or running shoes and support this year’s virtual event.
You can walk anywhere, even in your local neighbourhood, just wear something blue, and take on the run or walk between 06:00 and 18:00. To take part, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 031-201-2169.
Based in Johannesburg, Brian Derenberger is a Senior Editor at Healthy Organic Lifestyle.