About 32.4 million Americans — roughly 1 out of every 10 — have diabetes. This chronic medical condition can dramatically increase your risks for serious medical problems and alter the way you live your life.
Without proper management and medical care, diabetes can lead to issues like:
- Nerve damage
- Skin changes
- Deep skin sores
- Lower limb amputation
- Kidney damage and kidney failure
The symptoms of diabetes can be subtle, easily confused with other issues. At Harbor Community Health Centers, our team doesn’t just help patients manage their diabetes — we help them learn to recognize those subtle signs so they can get tested as soon as possible.
In this post, our team reviews the causes of diabetes and the most common symptoms to watch out for.
Diabetes: Type 1 vs. Type 2
Diabetes is a condition that changes the way your body uses a hormone called insulin to process blood sugar, or glucose, a necessary nutrient for your body’s cells. The two “main” types of diabetes — type 1 and type 2 — differ in how they happen.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune cells attack healthy pancreas cells where insulin is produced. Eventually, the pancreas cannot produce insulin, which means your body is unable to process glucose. This type typically begins in childhood.
Type 2 diabetes is an acquired condition that happens most often in people who are overweight or obese. In this type, your body still produces insulin, but it either doesn’t produce enough, or doesn’t use it “correctly,” allowing glucose to “build up” in your blood.
A third “type” of diabetes called gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy, especially among pregnant women with these risk factors:
- Obesity (or even being overweight)
- Being sedentary or not getting a lot of physical activity
- Family history of diabetes
- Prior gestational diabetes
- Having had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Regular blood and urine tests during pregnancy help monitor for the condition.
The only way to know for sure if you have diabetes is to have a blood test that measures blood glucose levels over time (the hemoglobin A1C test). However, diabetes can cause some symptoms, and knowing what they are can help you get that test as early as possible.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased ended to urinate
- Blurry vision
- Itchy skin
- Unintentional weight loss
- Sores that take a long time to heal
- Frequent urinary tract infections or yeast infections
Some people have prediabetes, where blood glucose is elevated but not as high as it is in diabetes. People with prediabetes are at a dramatically increased risk of developing diabetes and need prompt medical management to bring their glucose levels back to healthy levels.
Get tested for diabetes
The CDC recommends all adults 45 and older get screened for diabetes, with repeated tests every three years — or more often for those at risk for diabetes. With three locations in San Pedro, CA, Harbor Community Health Centers make it easy to get screened.
If you have any symptoms of diabetes or if it’s been more than three years since your last diabetes screening, call Harbor Community Health Centers or book an appointment online today.