Diabetes FAQ

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
The most common signs and symptoms of diabetes include feeling thirstier, having to urinate more frequently, feeling more fatigued than normal, and a decline in weight.1 Other symptoms can range from vision becoming blurry, feeling more hungry, and any cuts and wounds on your body taking longer to heal.1 These symptoms can be experienced by any person, regardless of age.1

What are the chronic complications of diabetes?

Uncontrolled diabetes can have several serious complications, such as end-stage renal disease (where kidneys fail to function), heart disease, retinopathy (when retinas become diseased, causing your sight to become blurred), and neuropathy (nerve damage).2,3

What are the different types of diabetes?

There are 3 major types of diabetes - commonly known as Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.4

  • Type 1 diabetes is most commonly seen to develop in children and around the teenage years, but it can appear at any age. This type of diabetes takes place when the body carries out a very small or no amount of insulin.4 In order for patients with type 1 diabetes to control their blood glucose levels, insulin injections are necessary on a daily basis.4
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is usually seen in adults.With type 2 diabetes, the body does not effectively use its production of insulin.4 This diabetes can be combated by maintaining a healthier way of life, which includes more exercise and healthier eating choices.4 Despite efforts for a healthy lifestyle, most patients over time with this type of diabetes will need to take insulin and/or oral medication to control blood glucose levels.
  • Gestational diabetes takes place when a woman has high blood glucose levels while pregnant.4 This type of diabetes is affiliated with complications for both the child and the mother.4 Although gestational diabetes is no longer present after pregnancy, the danger of having Type 2 diabetes later in life is enhanced for the mother and child.4

What are the acute complications of diabetes?

The acute complications caused by diabetes are known as hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia.5  

Hypoglycaemia

is a condition that occurs when blood glucose levels are excessively low and can occur as a result of excessive insulin in the body.5 Symptoms of hypoglycaemia include mood swings, confusion, and feelings of hunger or dizziness.5

Hyperglycaemia

can develop when blood glucose levels are extremely high.5 While no symptoms may develop until blood sugar is extremely high, patients with diabetes should be vigilant to look for symptoms such as needing to constantly urinate, stomach pain, and breath that has a fruity smell.6

What is the connection between sleep apnea and diabetes?

Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing continues to stop and start during sleep.7 Sleep apnea changes glucose metabolism and encourages resistance to insulin, which therefore links sleep apnea to type 2 diabetes.8

What medication is available for diabetes?

The medicine available for diabetes is dependent on the type of diabetes a patient has and how effectively the medication is able to manage blood glucose levels.9 

  • With type 1 diabetes, patients will need to take insulin on account of their body not being able to produce enough of their own. 9  This insulin medication can be taken in different ways, through syringes or pens, for example.
  • With type 2 diabetes, although the condition can largely be managed through lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and healthier diets, insulin can also be taken in the form of pills or injections.9 Metformin is a medication that aids the natural insulin which the body produces to work better.10 Metformin is usually prescribed for patients with type 2 diabetes and sometimes for gestational diabetes.10

What is the prognosis for a person with diabetes?

Many studies exploring life expectancy for patients with diabetes have discovered that people with the condition tend to have a lower life expectancy than the rest of the general population.11 However, if people with diabetes stick to various programmes for disease management, this provides a better chance of managing risk factors.11 

What should you expect if you have been diagnosed with diabetes?

Many people when newly diagnosed with diabetes, may experience feelings of massive shock and a decline in mental health, which is why it is important for patients to maintain a stable network of support.12  It’s understandable that depression is twice as prevalent in people with diabetes, as patients will need to gradually become used to having regular medication and major changes in lifestyle if they previously didn’t have a balanced diet or active lifestyle.12  

Support can also be found from others living with the condition or medical professionals in order to improve your wellbeing.12

Could vaping put you on a path to diabetes?

A study that evaluated the relationship between people who used e-cigarettes and were diagnosed with prediabetes reported a link between the two and came to the conclusion that there was a greater chance of e-cigarette users developing prediabetes, making vaping one of the risk factors for the disease.13

What should I know about diabetes type 1 and type 2?

In the United States, diabetes is the 7th most common cause of death, and even this may be underestimated due to the low percentage of reporting. 14 Additionally, in 2021, it was recorded that the previous two decades had seen American adults who develop diabetes double, as a result of more of their population becoming overweight or obese.14  Although these statistics are representative of a Western population, it is important from a global stance to maintain healthy eating choices and keep up exercise regimes, as these are the two main ways to avoid your weight becoming a risk factor to develop diabetes. 

What health problems can people with diabetes develop?

There are many issues that people with diabetes can develop.15 Type 2 diabetes can lead to nerves being damaged, so you are unable to feel pain, losing your eyesight, having miscarriages, and having sexual issues, such as erectile dysfunction.15

Diabetes and weight loss, how do you get it right?

There are several diets that are available online and easily able to be researched.16  It is important for people with diabetes to choose diet plans they feel comfortable with and believe they can follow. Two diets, in particular, include the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet: 16

  • The DASH diet is used to help hypertension (high blood pressure).16  While its primary use was to decrease blood pressure, it is ultimately an excellent nutrition plan for anyone wanting to incorporate more nutrients into their meals.16 The DASH diet encourages large amounts of grains, fruits, and vegetables while staying away from sugar, sodium, and fat. 16 
  • The Mediterranean diet follows getting most of your calories from foods that are plant-based and is a popular lifestyle in different parts of Europe.16 

What is an end-stage renal failure in patients with diabetes?

Nephropathy is the degradation of the function of the kidneys.18 The last stage of nephropathy is known as end-stage renal failure, which can also be referred to as ESRD. With ESRD, the kidneys will not be able to function by themselves anymore.18 Patients with ESRD can survive if they receive dialysis (a substitute for the regular function of the kidney) or a kidney transplant.18

How does diabetes affect your heart, eyes, feet, nerves and kidneys?

Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is able to harm tiny blood vessels in the body.19  Sugar attaches to these minute blood vessels, making blood transportation more difficult. High blood sugar can cause fat to accumulate in the blood vessels of the heart, resulting in a stroke or heart attack.19  Plus, high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels of the eyes, which may lead to blindness.19  

There are two different ways that the feet can be damaged by diabetes; either the nerves in the foot do not function, which can cause a loss of feeling in the feet, or the blood circulation is poor, which means that wounds will take a longer time than normal to heal.19 

Hyperglycemia that is present for a number of years can negatively affect the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the nerves.19 As a result, the nerves may cease to pass along signals of pain.19 

High blood sugar can cause the blood vessels of the kidneys to become blocked since they become narrower.19 Consequently, less fluid exits the body, and diabetic kidney disease can be developed (kidney disease due to diabetes).19

How do diet and exercise affect diabetes?

Exercise and healthy eating that results in weight loss can allow muscle cells to use glucose and insulin in a more efficient manner.20 Conversely, an absence of exercise during your daily activities can lead to muscle cells losing their insulin sensitivity.20 

Can diabetes cause headaches or dizziness?

Diabetes insipidus is an uncommon condition which makes you feel thirsty and urinate a lot.21 When a person has this type of diabetes, their body finds it difficult to retain water.22 This can result in dehydration, and some of the symptoms of this dehydration can be headaches and dizziness.22

Can prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes be prevented?

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.23   The primary way to prevent Type 2 diabetes is by losing a decent amount of weight by making consistent changes to the amount of exercise people do on a regular basis and by having a balanced diet.24 Selecting foods that don’t have as much fat and sticking to water instead of other drinks with more sugar will aid in preventing Type 2 diabetes.24  Losing weight before becoming pregnant can also be an effective way to prevent gestational diabetes.25

References

  1. Diabetes UK. Symptoms of Diabetes | Type 1 and Type 2 [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/diabetes-symptoms
  2. Richard Adongo Afaya , Victoria Bam, Thomas Bavo Azongo, Agani Afaya. Knowledge of chronic complications of diabetes among persons living with type 2 diabetes mellitus in northern Ghana. Plos One. Oct 2020; Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0241424
  3. John Hopkins Medicine. End Stage Renal Disease [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/end-stage-renal-failure
  4. International Diabetes Federation. What is diabetes [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.idf.org/aboutdiabetes/what-is-diabetes.html
  5. Royal College of Nursing. Complications and treatments | Diabetes [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.rcn.org.uk/clinical-topics/Diabetes/Complications-and-treatment
  6. NHS. High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) [Internet]. May 2022; Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-sugar-hyperglycaemia/#symptoms
  7. NHS. Sleep apnoea [Internet]. May 2022; Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sleep-apnoea/
  8. Jimmy Doumit;  Bharati Prasad. Sleep Apnea in Type 2 Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. 2016; Cited Jun 2022. 29(1):14–19. Available from: https://doi.org/10.2337/diaspect.29.1.14
  9. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Insulin, Medicines & Other Diabetes Treatments [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/insulin-medicines-treatments
  10. Diabetes UK. Metformin and Diabetes [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/treating-your-diabetes/tablets-and-medication/metformin
  11. Konstantin Tachkov, Konstantin Mitov, Yordanka Koleva, Zornitsa Mitkova, Maria Kamusheva, Maria Dimitrova et al. National Library of Medicine. Life expectancy and survival analysis of patients with diabetes compared to the non diabetic population in Bulgaria. May 2020; Cited Jun 2022. 15(5): e0232815. Available from: PMID: 32392235
  12. Diabetes UK. Coping with a diabetes diagnosis [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/emotions/coping-diagnosis
  13. Zhenyu Zhang, Michael J. Blaha, Albert Osei, Venkataramana Sidhaye, Murugappan Ramanathan Jr et al. The Association Between E-Cigarette Use and Prediabetes: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2016-2018. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Mar 2022; Cited Jun 2022. 62.6;872-877. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2021.12.009
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes Quick Facts [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html
  15. NHS. Type 2 diabetes - Health Problems [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-2-diabetes/health-problems/
  16. Cleveland Clinic. Diabetes and Weight Loss: What You Need to Know [Internet]. Aug 2021; Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/diabetes-and-weight-loss-what-you-need-to-know/
  17. John Hopkins Medicine. Diabetic Neuropathy (Kidney Disease) [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/diabetes/diabetic-nephropathy-kidney-disease
  18. John Hopkins Medicine. End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/end-stage-renal-failure
  19. National Kidney Foundation. Diabetes and Your Eyes, Heart, Nerves Feet and Kidneys [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022; Available from: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/diabetes-and-your-eyes-heart-nerves-feet-and-kidneys
  20. John Muir Health. Preventing Diabetes [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.johnmuirhealth.com/health-education/conditions-treatments/diabetes-articles/preventing-diabetes.html
  21. NHS. Diabetes Insipidus [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes-insipidus/
  22. NHS. Diabetes Insipidus - Complications [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes-insipidus/complications/
  23. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Type 1 Diabetes? [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/what-is-type-1-diabetes.html
  24. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Preventing Type 2 Diabetes[Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-type-2-diabetes
  25. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gestational Diabetes [Internet]. Cited Jun 2022. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/gestational.html

Marya Waseem

BSc Biomedical Science Student, University of Reading, England
Biomedical Science with Professional Experience student at University of Reading. Currently seeking a placement in research and development for 2023/24.
Klarity Health Medical Writer
English Language and Literature tutor from KS1 to GCSE level.

Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles.