Diabetes is a condition that affects how much sugar is in the bloodstream. Typically, food is broken down into a sugar, glucose, which is then released into the bloodstream. The resulting rise in blood sugar then triggers the pancreas to release insulin, which allows blood sugar to be used by the cells for energy. 

In each type of diabetes (type 1, 2, and gestational diabetes), your body either doesn’t produce or use insulin the way it should, leading to increased blood sugar levels. Left unaddressed, this could cause serious health issues, but there are ways to manage diabetes effectively.

In honor of American Diabetes Month this November, we’re bringing awareness to the condition’s symptoms and management.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

Some people develop noticeable symptoms of diabetes, but others may experience none. People with type 1 diabetes, which is typically diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, are more likely to develop symptoms quickly and intensely than people with type 2 diabetes.

Frequently, if you’re developing diabetes symptoms you may experience:

  • Increased thirst
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Increased appetite
  • Vision changes, including blurriness
  • Exhaustion
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities

Because the symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be so mild or even nonexistent, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) advises regular testing for diabetes beginning at the age of 35.

What Causes Diabetes?

Each type of diabetes is believed to have different root causes. Type 1 diabetes is suspected to be caused by an autoimmune reaction that prevents the production of insulin. Roughly 5-10% of people with diabetes have this type, and there are currently no known preventive measures.

“In cases of type 2 diabetes, there are several potential causes at play,” explains Dr. Dolezal. “But being overweight or obese is one important risk factor, since carrying extra weight can cause insulin resistance.”

As the typical precursor for type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance develops when muscle, liver, and fat cells do not respond to insulin effectively. Your body, therefore, requires more insulin to help glucose enter the cells. In very early stages, your body may be able to produce more insulin on its own, but eventually, it’s no longer able to keep up with the demand.

“Being overweight isn’t the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Dolezal continues. “Having a family history of the condition also increases risk, and certain racial and ethnic groups are more likely to develop it.”

In cases of gestational diabetes, experts believe that pregnancy-related hormone changes caused by the placenta can trigger insulin resistance and cause temporary diabetes.

How Is Diabetes Treated?

With the exception of gestational diabetes, diabetes is a chronic, life-long condition. Although the diagnosis is life-changing, most people with diabetes are able to manage it successfully. One key to preventing diabetic complications is adhering to your diabetes management plan. Typically, this will include a healthy diet, staying active, and potentially taking medication, if needed.

No matter which type of diabetes you have, the primary goal of your plan will be keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. Factors such as too much or too little food can alter your blood sugar level, as can activity levels, poor hydration, illness, and stress. 

Your doctor will discuss ways to monitor and manage your blood sugar, which may include daily testing and medications, if appropriate to keep you in your target range. Some people may require medication shortly after their diagnosis, while other people may be able to avoid medication and manage their blood sugar through lifestyle changes.

If you want to learn more about how we can help you and your family identify, treat, and navigate diabetes or any other condition, our caring experts are easy to reach by phone at 762-356-4933. You can also contact one of our locations directly online