Diabetes is a chronic and progressive disease that, if left uncontrolled, affects the entire body in the long run. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia, that occur due to either a deficiency or reduced effectiveness of insulin hormone. Due to a change in lifestyle and eating habits in the current century, diabetes is spreading at an alarming rate. According to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, more than 8% of the American population is suffering from diabetes.

There are two main types of diabetes: insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (type 1) and non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (type 2). Of the two types, type 2 is more common and is preventable to some extent.

ARE YOU AT RISK OF DEVELOPING DIABETES?

Due to the progressive and debilitating nature of the disease, the American Diabetes Association holds a Diabetes Alert Day every year. This day is meant to wake up the public and encourage everyone to take a diabetes risk test to discover their risk factors for developing the disease.

You are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you fall in any of the following categories:

OBESITY: The association between type 2 diabetes and obesity is well known. The risk is further increased if more fat is deposited around the belly.

AGE GREATER THAN 40 YEARS: The risk of developing diabetes is increased in the, especially after 40 years of age.

POSITIVE FAMILY HISTORY: If any of your family members have diabetes, then your risk of developing the disease is increased.

Apart from the above mentioned categories, individuals who have metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes or lead a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to develop diabetes. Females who have a history of diabetes during any of their pregnancies are also at an increased risk. Smoking also increases the risk manifolds of developing the disease and its complications.

In fact, a person may suffer from diabetes for many years without being diagnosed, as the early symptoms of the disease are very unspecific.

THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS SHOULD CAUSE A DIABETES ALERT:

Increased thirst

Increased frequency of urination, especially night time frequency

Generalized fatigue and tiredness

Increased tendency to develop infections such as thrush and urinary tract infections

Increased healing time of minor cuts and wounds

Itching sensation specially around penis and vagina

Development of abnormal sensation of tingling or numbness in limbs

Presence of glucose in urine

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY DIAGNOSIS OF DIABETES?

Early diagnosis of diabetes plays a major role in its management and treatment. People who are diagnosed at an early stage and treated appropriately with the help of medicines and dietary management can lead perfectly normal lives. A delay in diagnosis can lead to the development of life threatening complications including heart disease, stroke, venous insufficiency, retinopathy and neuropathy.

By Dr. Ritu Goel

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