Long before someone is actually diagnosed with diabetes, there are many changes that happen at the cellular level in the body. Most people do not realize this and ultimately progress to have diabetes. Diabetes doctors and endocrinologists across the world insist that people should be aware of the signs of diabetes in order to prevent it or to minimize the complications of diabetes.
Diabetes as a condition is characterized by high blood sugar levels and can lead to many complications like:
- Diabetic retinopathy which is a leading cause of vision loss
- Diabetic nephropathy leading to end-stage kidney disease
- Diabetic neuropathy, a major cause for non-trauma related foot amputations
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Sexual dysfunction
Unfortunately in the case of diabetes, most of these health complications occur silently without any ominous signs or symptoms. That is why it is important to diagnose diabetes early and manage it properly later on. It is even possible for people to avoid diabetes with some modifications in lifestyle.
However, many people in India have little knowledge of diabetes including its nature, its progress, and the damage it can do. For that matter, many people are not aware of the symptoms and signs of diabetes.
Diabetes and preventive healthcare in India
It is a fact that we are the second largest country when it comes to the number of people with diabetes. If we take into consideration the number of people who are living with diabetes but do not know, then the numbers would certainly be astounding.
Despite this, it is also a fact that India lags behind in preventive healthcare. We can prevent many major illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and diabetes with proactive preventive care.
By initiating healthy practices, one can improve health of people, improve quality of life, and reduce the risk of hospitalization due to various diseases.
Currently, preventive healthcare in India concentrates more on communicable diseases, disabilities, occupational illnesses, deafness, blindness, child health, and nutrition. However, there is a dire need to concentrate on non-communicable diseases also.
If we consider the burden of non-communicable diseases in India, every family suffers. Almost every family in India has a member who suffers from obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, asthma, COPD, cardiovascular diseases, and ischemic heart disease.
These conditions are leading causes of mortality, hospitalization, and major financial burden. That is why there is need for early initiation in order to lead a healthy life and avoid illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory problems (these are leading causes of mortalities in India).
How to initiate preventive healthcare?
Preventive healthcare is all about good health starting with you. If you are aware of the first signs of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and other conditions, you can work towards preventing them, detecting them early on and minimizing complications.
Here are a few principles of preventive healthcare which you can make it as part of your everyday life.
- Knowledge of disease conditions – In this case knowing about signs of diabetes, its symptoms, and preventive measures
- Adopting healthy behaviors and healthy lifestyle – Eating the right food at the right time, getting adequate exercise and sleep, and avoiding stress
- Never missing out on preventive health screening – getting periodical tests for diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart diseases, kidney disease, and eye problems is important
- Maintaining proper weight – Most of the non-communicable diseases originate from high body mass index. Maintaining good weight can help you prevent many diseases
- Staying physically and mentally active – Many diseases like diabetes and heart conditions can be prevented by being physically active
- Quitting smoking – Smoking can increase the risk of diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and many other conditions. It is very important to work with your doctor in order to quit smoking
Knowledge of disease condition – First signs of diabetes
As discussed, having knowledge of a disease condition can help us from preventing it. Even though diabetes is present in almost every household of India, our knowledge of diabetes is limited. Many people are not aware of the signs of diabetes, the tests done to diagnose diabetes, and changes in lifestyle that help in preventing/managing diabetes.
Long before a person is diagnosed with diabetes, there are many changes that occur in the body. If a person is able to identify them and take precautionary measures, it is quite possible to avoid diabetes.
Impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance – signs of diabetes
In case of diabetes, a condition called prediabetes occurs first. In this stage, a person is known to have impaired glucose tolerance as a result of metabolic abnormalities. Impaired glucose tolerance is a clear sign of diabetes in the future.
Impaired glucose tolerance indicates imbalance in glucose regulation. This is identified in a blood test or an oral glucose tolerance test. Impaired fasting glucose can be determined by a fasting blood glucose test. A fasting plasma blood glucose level between 100 mg/dL to 126 mg/dL is known as impaired fasting glucose.
Impaired glucose tolerance is measured by a test called oral glucose tolerance test. This test is done by ingestion of glucose solution and measuring the body’s response to this glucose. If a person has blood sugar levels between 140 mg/dL and 200 mg/dL in a 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test, it is known as impaired glucose tolerance.
Both impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance are abnormalities in glucose metabolism and can ultimately progress into diabetes. The time taken for prediabetes to progress to diabetes might take some years, but preventive measures can prevent/delay onset of diabetes.
If you are overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle, and eat junk food, it is time to get:
- Random blood glucose test
- Fasting blood glucose test
- Oral glucose tolerance test
Results of these tests are conclusive signs of diabetes or prediabetes. Remember, only if you get tested you would know about your condition. And, it is quite possible for you to prevent diabetes with lifestyle intervention.
Other signs of diabetes
Diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the body cannot respond to the insulin secreted. In this case, glucose generated after digestion cannot reach tissues of the body. They remain in the blood vessels and bloodstream. This leads to high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels cause some changes in the body metabolism and shows up in the form of the first signs of diabetes. These include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Excessive hunger
- Blurry vision
- Wounds and bruises that do not heal quickly
- Tingling sensation in hands and feet
- Numbness of the feet
- Frequent urinary and genital infections
If you experience any of these signs of diabetes, it is very important that you consult an endocrinologist, and get diabetes tests done. And remember, it is not the end of the world if you are diagnosed with diabetes. You can lead a healthy life with medications, lifestyle modifications, and preventive healthcare screening.