Diabetes - Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis
Health Education

Diabetes - Introduction and Diagnosis

Dr.Srividya Venigalla profile Authored by Dr.Srividya Venigalla on 19 Mar 2013 - 16:07.

India has the largest diabetic population of about 50 million in the world, followed by China. Even with this high prevalence there is a general lack of understanding of the symptoms and management of Diabetes leading to delay in diagnosis and wide range of preventable complications. In this series of articles titled “Basics of Diabetes” we present basic informationabout Diabetes to empower our readers.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong disease. In this condition the sugar levels in the blood are high. Over a period of time, these high levels of sugar raises one’s risk for heart problems, stroke, eye problems, nerve and organ damage and other serious conditions.

What are the different types of diabetes?
Type 1- usually develops in children, teens and young adults.
Type 2- the most common type generally seen in adults above 40 years.
Gestational- develops during pregnancy in women who did not have diabetes earlier.

To understand diabetes, we need to know how food is converted to energy.

When food is digested, sugar called glucose enters our blood. Glucose is our body’s fuel.
There is an organ in our body called pancreas. Pancreas makes insulin. Insulin moves glucose from the blood into our muscles, fat, liver cells where it is used as fuel.

When you have diabetes, sugar cannot be transported into fat, liver or muscle to use or store energy. This could be due to two reasons - the pancreas in your body does not make enough insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or their cells do not respond to insulin normally (Type 2 Diabetes).

• Excessive thirst
• Fatigue
• Frequent urination
• Weight loss
• Blurry vision
• Frequent infections
• Burning feet

Symptoms in Type 1 diabetes develop over a short period of time and can make you very sick unless they are diagnosed. Unfortunately as Type 2 develops very slowly, people might not be aware of their symptoms for a long time.

Please go through the Basics of Diabetes part 2 and 3 for additional information of treatment and complications.

Simple urine may be used to test high blood sugar. However, a urine test is not the only test to diagnose diabtes. To confirm the diagnosis, one or more of the following tests must be done:

Blood testing that includes:

Fasting blood glucose test: levels higher than 126 at two different occasions confirm the diagnosis of Diabetes.Levels in between 100 and 126 mg/dL are called pre diabetes, borderline diabetes or impaired fasting glucose. This increases the risk of developing diabetes.

Hemoglobin A1c

  •  Normal: if less than 5.7%
  •  Pre-diabetes: 5.7% – 6.4%
  •  Diabetes: levels 6.5% or higher

Oral glucose tolerance test: is another test often used in pregnant women. Diabetes is diagnosed if glucose level is higher than 200 mg/dL after 2 hours of sugar load or meal.

Screening for type 2 Diabetes: in people who have no symptoms is recommended for:

• Overweight adults who have a family history of Diabetes.
• Adults over the age of 45 years, that can be repeated every 3 years.


*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.