04 June 2018

When to see your doctor about diabetes

Knowing the symptoms and understanding the causes will allow you to detect diabetes earlier and avoid the serious damage it can do.

During the early stages of diabetes and prediabetes, symptoms are often subtle and can be missed.

Understanding the early and sometimes unusual signs, and knowing your family history can help you know when it's time to see the doctor about diabetes.

The difference between diabetes and prediabetes

Prediabetes indicates that your glucose levels are higher than normal, but not to the degree that you can be diagnosed with diabetes. While prediabetes can result in nerve damage, high cholesterol and blood pressure levels, it is not a permanent condition. However, if drastic lifestyle changes are not made, it can develop into type 2 diabetes.

A normal blood sugar level is 5.6mmol/L. Anything between 5.7mmol/L and 7.0mmol/L can be considered prediabetic.

If your glucose levels are higher than they should be, the likelihood of not showing any symptoms is high. However, there are symptoms that could appear in the case of prediabetes:

  • Thirst 
  • Fatigue
  • An increase in appetite
  • Frequent urination

While diabetes has most of these symptoms, there are a few added indicators:

  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent and recurring infections
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Boils
  • Itching skin
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet

Why is it important to know your family history?

Your family has an impact on your risk for diabetes. This happens in two different ways – through genetics and through your upbringing. Your parents, siblings and family members influence the way you live, what you eat, how you take care of yourself and your health in general. Your genetics can influence type 1 and type 2 diabetes, while lifestyle influences are largely related to your risk for type 2 diabetes. 

While there are many changes taking place internally during this period with regards to tissues, organs and blood cells, there are not always visible signs and symptoms accompanying them. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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