DIABETES
Easy Guide To: Warning Signs, Complications, Tests And Treatment

Diabetes Guide pictures of diabetes conditions

Woman diabetic

Diabetes in Women

Contents

What Is Diabetes?
What Are The Warning Signs?
What Causes Diabetes
How Is It Diagnosed?
How Is It Treated?
What Complications Can It Cause?
What Are The Risk Factors?
Can It Be Prevented?


Guide For Diabetics

Symptoms
Causes
Diagnosis
Treatment
Complications
Type 1
Type 2
Gestational
Metabolic Syndrome
Regular Check-Ups
Prediabetes
Prevention
Diabetes Statistics
Diabetes Resources

Additional Resources
Insulin Pens
Glucose Monitors
Guide to Buying Glucose Monitors
Books on Diabetes

Famous Diabetics
Halle Berry, Actress
Elvis Presley, Need we say!
Ella Fitzgerald, Singer
Salma Hayek, Actress
Nick Jonas, Musician

Never let diabetes prevent you from doing what you want to do with your life.

Language References
• Diabetes is also called diabetes mellitus and sugar diabetes.
• Blood glucose and blood sugar mean the same thing.
• Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes.
• Type 2 diabetes was called adult-onset diabetes and noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to regulate the level of sugar in the blood. The hormone insulin is normally used to regulate levels, but in a diabetic patient the body either does not produce enough insulin or it stops responding to the insulin it does make. If blood (glucose) sugar levels are consistently too high (or too low), it leads to all sorts of medical complications and eventually even death. There are 3 main types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes: Is where the body produces no insulin, so the person has to take a daily insulin injection to stay alive. Typically it first starts in childhood or late teens. There is no cure.
Type 2 Diabetes: Is where the body stops responding to the insulin it does make, so blood sugar levels start to rise. Typically it occurs in adults over the age of 40 and is linked to obesity. It can be treated with lifestyle improvements and oral medications.
Gestational Diabetes: Sometimes referred to as type 3 diabetes, this is a temporary form of the disease that occurs in pregnancy. While it does raise the risk of pregnancy complications, the mother's blood sugar usually returns to normal after delivery.
Prediabetes: This is where someone has persistently high levels of blood sugar, but the levels are not high enough to qualify as full-blown diabetes. Most people with type 2 diabetes were prediabetic for years beforehand. See, can prediabetes be reversed?

About 8 percent of Americans are currently diagnosed with diabetes - that is 25 million people. A further 79 million are prediabetic. Diabetes is a serious disease and causes more deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined. It places serious challenges on the body, among many other problems, raising a person's risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Two out of every three diabetics die from a stroke or heart disease.

What Are The Warning Signs?

The following are the top 10 most common symptoms of diabetes:

1. Increased thirst.
2. Constant hunger.
3. Need to urinate frequently, particularly at night.
4. Unusual fatigue and irritability.
5. Blurred vision.
6. Sores that do not heal.
7. Unexplained weight loss.
8. Irregular periods.
9. Frequent recurrent yeast infections.
10. Tingling and numbness in the hands/feet.

The Difference Between Type 1 And Type 1 Diabetes

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop rapidly over a short period of time. The person is often very sick by the time of diagnosis. Type 2 diabetes on the other hand develops much more slowly, people with the disorder can have raised blood sugar levels for some time before displaying any symptoms.

What Causes Diabetes?

The causes of diabetes are not yet completely understood. It can be caused by too little insulin being produced by the pancreas (diagram), resistance to insulin, or both. Insulin is an important hormone which removes sugar from the bloodstream and diverts it into the cells where it is used as fuel. Without fuel our body would cease to function, much like a car without gas.
Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it usually presents in children or young adults. With this disorder the pancreas produces little or no insulin so daily injections of man-made insulin are critical for survival. The exact cause of type 1 is not known.
Type 2 diabetes, which makes up the vast majority (90 percent) of cases, usually occurs after the age of 45, although alarming numbers of teenagers are being diagnosed with the condition due to rising levels of obesity. This disorder occurs when the body's cells stop responding to insulin (becoming insulin 'resistant'). As a result, large amounts of glucose remain in the blood stream instead of being snapped up and used as energy by the body's cells. Eventually the pancreas stops producing insulin, leading to more strain on the body and further complications.
Gestational diabetes is probably linked to hormone changes during pregnancy. Most women with the condition experience a return to normal blood sugar levels after childbirth. In other words, gestational diabetes is only temporary.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Initially your doctor will perform a urine analysis to check for signs of high blood sugar. He will place a specially coated strip or dipstick into the urine sample and the dipstick changes color according to the level of blood sugar present. The results are instantaneous. However, this test alone is not enough to make a diabetes diagnosis. To do this, one or more of the following tests must be carried out:
Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Test: This is a blood test which measures your blood glucose levels after you have fasted for at least 8 hours. It is used to detect diabetes and prediabetes.
Random Plasma Glucose Test: This is a blood test taken randomly whether or not you have eaten. It is normally recommended if the FPG test is positive (to be really sure!).
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): Yet another blood test that measures glucose levels - but with this one first you need to fast for 8 hours, then drink a glucose beverage and wait for a further 2 hours before being tested. This test might be performed if the fasting or random test is not conclusive.
A1C Test: The hemoglobin A1C test is a newer test which only requires a tiny blood sample. It measures hemoglobin levels which indicate how well glucose levels have been controlled over the past 3 months. A1 C home test kits are widely available in stores and pharmacies.

Screening For Diabetes

As many people have type 2 diabetes without realizing it, the American Diabetes Association has recommended widespread screening of all adults aged 45 and over, every 3 years, using the FPG test. See also, what is a normal blood sugar count? as well as are there any home tests for diabetes?

How Is It Treated?

Diabetes treatment: There is no cure for diabetes; instead the condition is managed with drugs, a healthy diet and regular exercise:

Type 1: Everyone with type 1 must take insulin every day. It is usually injected several times a day under the skin with an insulin pen (or a syringe) although some diabetics use a pump (image). Insulin does not come in tablet form. Patients will also need to use a device called a glucose monitor (also called glucometer) to test their blood sugar level several times a day to ensure they are maintaining healthy levels. This is known as blood glucose monitoring. A balanced diet is important and ideally type 1 diabetics should aim to eat at the same time everyday and stick to the same kinds of foods. This reduces the risk of a sugar spike.
Type 2: People with type 2 are usually first treated with diet and exercise alone, with the aim of bringing blood sugar levels back to normal levels. They may also be given weight loss targets. Patients will also be given a glucometer to monitor their blood sugar levels at home. If these lifestyle changes fail to improve the condition, medications will be prescribed. There are a number of oral drugs which can help control type 2 diabetes, including metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet, Riomet), glimepiride (Amaryl) and acarbose (Precose). If the condition worsens after a few years, a daily insulin injection, in addition to diabetes pills, may be necessary.
Gestational: Gestational diabetes is considered a pregnancy complication which needs to be carefully monitored through the three trimesters, but particularly so during the third trimester. Formerly doctors insisted women with this condition should have a c-section delivery by week 38, but today it is usually considered safe to allow the woman to deliver at term, vaginally. If problems occur during delivery, an emergency c-section will be performed. Labor induction will be used if they go beyond week 42. After delivery and childbirth the condition usually clears up.

What Complications Can It Cause?

Short-Term Complications
Short term complications develop within days or even hours:

1. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA): More common in type 1 diabetics, this is where very high levels of sugar and acid are found in the blood. It is often the first sign of diabetes in someone undiagnosed. Ketoacidosis is a medical emergency which leads to death unless it is quickly treated. Symptoms usually occur over 24 hours and include rapid breathing, vomiting, extreme drowsiness and weakness. In severe cases it causes confusion and diabetic coma. In the 1920s it was nearly always fatal, today due to treatment it is only fatal about 5 percent of the time. Read more about hyperglycemia, high blood sugar.
2. Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar caused for example by exercising too much or eating too little. Symptoms include headaches, inability to concentrate, fatigue, palpitations, sweating and eventually if untreated, coma.
3. Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS): Very high levels of blood sugar which has a similar effect as ketoacidosis (except less acid is produced). This is also a medical emergency and leads to leg cramps, sunken eyeballs and coma.

Long-Term Complications
People with diabetes are prone long-term to developing:

1. High Blood Pressure
2. High Cholesterol Levels: Raising the risk of atherosclerosis, one of the main causes of coronary heart disease and other forms of heart disease.
3. Strokes: Diabetes raises a woman's stroke risk factors.
4. Eye Complications: Trouble seeing at night and light sensitivity, sometimes eventual blindness.
5. Foot Disorders: Skin infections, calluses and ulcers. Poor circulation and risk of gangrene and the need for amputation.
6. Skin Problems: Fungal infections, itching, allergic reactions, digital sclerosis and diabetic blisters (also called diabetic bullae).
7. Loss of Hearing
8. Nerve Damage: Causing pain, tingling and loss of feeling.

For more detailed information see: diabetes complications

What Are The Risk Factors?

1. Being more than 20 percent over your ideal weight.
2. Having low levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol (35 or less) and/or triglycerides of 250 or more.
3. High blood pressure (hypertension) of 140/90 and above.
4. Genetics, having a sibling or parent with diabetes.
5. Women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, as are women who give birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
6. Race, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans and Asian-Americans are more prone.

Can It Be Prevented?

Diabetes Prevention
Type 1: This disease cannot be prevented.
Type 2 and Gestational: Maintaining a healthy body weight, taking regular exercise and eating a balanced diet is the best way to prevent both type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Complications for all types of diabetes can however be controlled or even prevented with regular diabetes tests.

Related Topics
What to do in case of diabetic coma: How to help someone.
Heart disease in women, causes, symptoms and treatment.

  Other Useful Guides

Recommended Health Screenings For Women: List for all ages.
The Female Body: How it works, visual guide with pictures.
Head And Face Conditions: How diabetes affects this area of the body.
Abdominal Problems: Disorders of the stomach, digestive system and liver.
Urinary System: Urine, how it's made and dumped by the body.
Reproductive System Problems: Signs of vaginal and vulva problems.
Endocrine System: Hormones production and functions.
Joint and Bone Problems: Causes of hand and feet pain.

Return to Homepage: Womens Health Advice


WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT DIABETES
Sources
Please Note: Information provided on this site is no substitute for professional medical help. See Disclaimer.
Copyright. All rights reserved.