Diabetes is a lifelong illness which affects over 34 million Americans. With more people developing diabetes at a younger age, it’s essential to understand how the disease can affect you and what can be done to prevent it. While diabetes itself isn’t a painful condition, managing it can be quite challenging.

Diabetes by Definition
Diabetes affects how the body produces insulin and uses glucose. Glucose is an essential energy source for muscle and tissue cells in the body and the primary fuel for your brain. There are both chronic and potentially reversible types of diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are chronic conditions, while prediabetes and gestational diabetes have the potential to be reversed. Regardless of type, diabetes occurs when there is excess sugar in the blood, which can cause serious health concerns. 

While those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes may not experience symptoms, individuals with type 1 diabetes can quickly experience an onset of symptoms, which may be more severe.

Symptoms of either type of diabetes may include: 

  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Frequent infections
  • Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are the byproduct of muscle and fat breaking down as a result of insufficient insulin)

Though both types of diabetes can develop at any age, type 1 diabetes is often detected in childhood or adolescence; whereas, type 2 is more common in individuals over 40.

Potential Risks and Complications
If you begin noticing these symptoms in yourself or your child, you should contact your doctor. Left untreated, diabetes can cause significant damage to the body, including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and nerve damage.Diabetes management is essential to feeling your best on a daily basis and ensuring your long-term health and quality of life. 

Individuals with diabetes need to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, stay active, and make healthy dietary choices. Medical professionals will often suggest nutritional changes and exercise to manage prediabetes or for those who are newly diagnosed; however, if that isn’t sufficient to get blood sugar levels in check, there are medications they can prescribe. 

As a condition that affects so many people, it’s a good idea to be aware of diabetes and its potential complications. Even those who have a genetic predisposition for type 2 diabetes can delay or prevent its onset with proper nutrition and exercise.