Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body cannot use glucose (sugar) for fuel. When the level of glucose in the blood is high for long periods, it can cause damage to the organs of the body. Damaged organs can lead to more serious health problems and even death; therefore, it is important to identify diabetes early to prevent or delay the onset of these complications. However, many people allow this harmful effect to occur due to lack of knowledge about this disease. Knowing the risk factors associated with diabetes is key to avoiding the disease altogether. Family history, members of certain ethnic groups (African American, Indian, Latino, and Asian), a history of gestational diabetes, overweight problems, and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to these risks.
By the time most people decide to visit a doctor, they have already felt the symptoms of diabetes and don’t even realize it. These symptoms are removed quite often without a second thought, as many of them are perceived as normal, perhaps temporary, conditions that people experience every day. The only thing that is common among patients is the statements they give to the doctor about their conditions. Here are the most common things a person gives about simple ailments that eventually necessitate a visit to the doctor:
* I work outside so I thought I was just thirsty because I was hot.
* I noticed that every time I eat a dessert I am very thirsty.
* I drink a lot of water and juice, so I thought that’s why I was peeing so much.
* I have been waking up 3 or 4 times a night to go to the bathroom.
* I’ve been so tired that I don’t have the energy to play with my children or grandchildren.
* I’m always hungry and I eat a lot, but I keep losing weight and I don’t understand why.
* I’ve had trouble seeing lately, so I went and bought new lenses, but I still have trouble concentrating at some point.
* I have a sore on my ankle that won’t heal. It has been there for 3 weeks.
* I keep getting yeast infections. I treat them but they keep coming back.
The comments above are typical of what newly diagnosed diabetic patients express concern. They cover things most associated with diabetes, including sudden weight loss, unusual thirst, decreased vision, and slow-healing wounds. As you can see, symptoms can easily be overlooked as of little concern or accepted as part of aging. Plus, it’s easy to see how you might not associate your symptoms with a disease. However, understanding and knowing your risk factors can prevent diabetes long before it becomes a serious health problem. If you have multiple risk factors, including a family history, you should be screened for diabetes annually by a doctor. In general, it’s best to monitor your health with yearly doctor visits because some people may not experience any symptoms at all.