Diabetes Basics
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How Do You Know?

What are the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Like nearly any medical condition, diabetes has its own set of symptoms to watch for, yet they may not be so easy to spot. Many of the most common symptoms of diabetes may not be immediately obvious; and in some cases, the symptoms might be mistakenly attributed to lifestyle or dietary changes. I spoke with Amber Taylor, MD, an endocrinologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, and Constance Brown-Riggs, RD, CDE*, to find out what symptoms they advise watching out for of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If you or one of your loved ones experience any of these symptoms, contact a health care professional right away.

Symptom: Increased Appetite

Occurs in: Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes

“Without enough insulin to move sugar into cells, there is too much glucose in the blood. Your kidneys are unable to process it, so you essentially excrete out the extra calories – which can drastically increase hunger, especially for sweets,” according to Dr. Taylor. “This is a self-perpetuating cycle,” she explains. “The more you eat, the more your blood glucose levels rise. Your body then eliminates the extra calories it cannot store – and the hungrier you become.” How hungry is too hungry? According to Brown-Riggs, feeling acutely hungry minutes after a normal-sized meal.

Symptom: Increased Thirst

May be symptom of: Both type 1 and type 2

“Like increased appetite,” according to Brown-Riggs, “serious thirst occurs when your body is trying to regulate the concentration of glucose in the blood by pulling water out of the cells.” The result is an insatiable thirst “that rebounds even after a large glass of water, particularly in those with type 1, which is sudden onset. Since type 2 diabetes is often more gradual and interferes with your body’s ability to produce insulin over time, thirst may not be as acute,” notes Taylor.

Symptom: Frequent Urination

May be symptom of: Both type 1 and type 2

Where there’s frequent thirst there is often frequent urination. Additionally, “in both types of diabetes, when blood glucose exceeds certain levels – 180 milligrams per deciliter – your kidneys typically will excrete it out,” explains Taylor. This can mean needing to visit the bathroom – and waking up because of it – five to six times a night.

Symptom: Weight Loss

May be symptom of: Both type 1 and type 2

“When glucose is not available for energy, your body will turn to a secondary source: fat,” says Brown-Riggs. “When fat is mobilized for energy, rapid weight loss can result – as much as ten pounds in one week,” she adds. While this may seem desirable to some people who are struggling to lose weight, this kind of weight loss is not ideal. Adds Taylor: “Your body is not getting the nutrients it needs to function properly. Weight will usually stabilize once blood glucose levels return to normal.”

Symptom: Breath with a Fruity Odor 

May be symptom of: Type 1

According to Taylor, this symptom “almost exclusively occurs in cases of sudden-onset diabetes (typically in about one-quarter of type 1 patients).” The fruity odor, says Taylor, “indicates diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious condition that requires immediate medical treatment – though once under control it won’t generally cause lasting effects.”

Symptom: Blurred Vision 

May be symptom of: Both type 1 and type 2

“Blurred vision is a direct result of an accumulation of blood glucose, which can change the shape of the eye’s lens, causing it to swell and making vision blurry,” according to Brown-Riggs. “Once glucose levels are regulated vision usually returns to normal.”

Symptom: Recurring Vaginal Yeast Infections

May be symptom of: Type 2 in women

“As a result of excess blood glucose, women with type 2 diabetes often experience recurring yeast infections,” says Brown-Riggs. “Fortunately, these usually will ease up with treatment of the infection and blood glucose stabilization. “

Elizabeth Goodman Artis is a writer and editor with nearly twenty years of experience at some of the top women’s magazines in the country. She has held senior editorial positions at Cosmopolitan, Fitness, and Prevention, and is currently the Executive Editor of Muscle & Fitness Hers. She lives in BrooklynArtis is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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