Symptoms, Risk Factors and Complications of Diabetes

Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes is extremely important. Many of the complications of diabetes can be slowed or even avoided when blood sugar levels are controlled.

The information below is not intended as a means of self diagnosis or as a substitute for professional medical care.

What are the warning signs of diabetes?

  • abnormal thirst
  • frequent urination
  • extreme fatigue
  • increased appetite
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • tingling in hands, legs or feet
  • frequent skin infections
  • slow healing of bruises, cuts or sores
  • blurred vision

What are the complications of diabetes?

  • Eye Damage to retinal blood vessels which can cause blindness.
  • Kidney failure. Up to half of new cases of severe kidney failure are due to diabetes.
  • Blood vessel diseases, heart attacks, strokes and peripheral damage to blood vessels are two to five times the usual rate, and are the most common cause of premature death.
  • Reduction in nerve sensation, notably in legs and feet, leading to ulcers and even gangrene and amputation.

How can I be tested for diabetes?

If you are at obvious risk of diabetes — especially if you have suspicious symptoms — you should ask your doctor to do a screening test.

Diabetes Screening Test: This test takes about two minutes to complete and only requires a drop of blood from the finger. If the test shows that your blood-sugar levels are too low or too high, other tests may be necessary.

Fasting Plasma Glucose Test: You will be asked to fast for 12 hours or more. The test is usually done in the morning so that most of your food deprivation will occur while you are asleep. A sample of blood is then taken and analyzed.

  • Normal Range: Under 115 mg/decaliter
  • Danger Range: Above 140 mg/decaliter (indicates diabetes)

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: You will be asked to fast for 12 to 24 hours. After that time you will be asked to drink a glucose drink or to eat a high sugar breakfast (depending on your doctor's preference). Then they will draw blood and analyze the glucose levels.

Islet Antibody Test: Sometimes the blood is tested for the presence of islet antibodies. Their presence indicates a likelihood of Type 1 diabetes.

Scientists are currently trying to develop genetic tests that will predict the risk of developing diabetes.