Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus

Around 3% of the world's population suffers from diabetes mellitus and its occurrence is increasing rapidly. Let us know more about the symptoms of this disease.
Diabetes mellitus is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It is a metabolic disorder caused due to defects in the production or action of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas to break down sugar and food into energy. In the case of people affected with diabetes, the production of insulin in their body is either not sufficient or is not able to act properly or may be both. This condition leads to a build up of sugar in the blood.

There are four types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, where the body does not produce enough insulin and Type II diabetes which is characterized by the body's inability to make the insulin work properly, along with a deficiency in the production of this hormone. Diabetes in pregnant women is known as gestational diabetes, which may disappear after childbirth, though such women are at a higher risk of developing diabetes in the future. The fourth category is called pre-diabetes. In this condition, the blood sugar level is higher than the normal range, but not high enough to be considered as Type II diabetes. The fourth type is the most common type of diabetes in the United States, followed by Type II diabetes. The occurrence of Type I diabetes is comparatively less, comprising only 5% to 10% of the diabetic patients in the country, whereas this figure in Type II diabetes is 24% and in case of pre-diabetes, it is the highest, with 57%.

Diabetes Mellitus Symptoms

Although there is no well-defined cause for diabetes, it has been observed that genetics and other factors, like, lack of physical activity, obesity, etc, are found to be behind this disease. The following are the signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus.
  • The most common symptoms of diabetes mellitus are polyuria (passage of large volumes of urine) and polydipsia (increased thirst and excessive fluid intake). As far as Type I diabetes is concerned, the affected people start developing symptoms within weeks or months, but in case of Type II diabetes, the symptoms develop in a very slow manner. In some people affected with Type II diabetes, the symptoms may not be severe enough to detect the disease or symptoms may be completely absent.
  • Another symptom of Type I diabetes is rapid and unexplained weight loss and lethargy. People affected by Type II diabetes may not experience weight loss.
  • Glycosuria (glucose in urine) and polyuria, may cause some other conditions, like, dehydration and polyphagia, a condition where the person experiences a significant increase in appetite.
  • If left untreated, the disease may lead to blurred vision, which is almost rapid in people with Type I diabetes, but develops in a very gradual manner in those with Type II diabetes.
  • Another complication of this disease is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a condition, wherein the person experiences polyuria, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. This condition is characterized by a smell of acetone in the breath, a deep breathing pattern called Kussmaul breathing and lethargy. In severe cases, the patient may slip into coma and eventually, death may follow. Normally, this condition is mostly found in people affected with Type I diabetes. In case of any such symptoms, the patient must be hospitalized at the earliest.
  • Another severe symptom associated with diabetes but mainly experienced by patients of Type II diabetes is hyperosmolar nonketotic state. This condition is very rare and is caused by dehydration.
  • Infections of skin, bladder and vaginal areas are more commonly found in people affected by diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is a very complicated disease, which can lead to nerve damage, kidney failure, atherosclerosis, blindness, stroke, heart disease, etc. Hence, it is imperative to control the disease by medication, regular exercise and a suitable diet. If you experience any of the above said symptoms, consult a doctor at the earliest.
By Sonia Nair
Last Updated: 10/13/2011
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