Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high. Cells in the body break down glucose in order to provide energy for movement, growth, and repair. The hormone insulin is responsible for regulating glucose levels in the blood. Abnormally high levels of glucose can damage the small and large blood vessels, leading to diabetic blindness, kidney disease, amputations of limbs, stroke, and heart disease.
There are three common types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually (but not always) diagnosed in children and young adults. Persons with type 1 diabetes make no insulin and must take insulin every day. Type 2 diabetes is usually (but not always) diagnosed in adults over the age of 45. In type 2 diabetes, either the person is not making enough insulin, or the body is resistant to insulin and cannot use it properly.
As many as 50 percent (one-half) of persons with type 2 diabetes are unaware that they have the disease. For this reason, it is particularly important to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of diabetes and its risk factors.
Some of the signs of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are:
- being very thirsty
- urinating often
- feeling very hungry or tired
- losing or gaining weight without trying
- having sores that heal slowly
- having dry, itchy skin
- losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet
- having blurry eyesight
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop over a short period of time. Keep in mind that the most common diabetes symptoms in younger children are polydipsia (drinking a lot), polyuria (urinating a lot), and weight loss.
In type 2 diabetes, symptoms develop more slowly, and some persons never have any symptoms of the disease. Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes include being overweight and having acanthosis nigricans, a velvety rash on a child's neck.
If you are regularly having any of these signs and symptoms, you should tell your doctor.
Adapted from the FDA's Questions and Answers about Diabetes