Diabetes is a great mimic. It affects various organs or systems of the body to give rise to such symptoms as would sometimes mislead even a physician.
Maturity onset diabetes creeps into the body so silently that the victim usually remains unaware and symptom less. On the other hand, juvenile diabetes develops suddenly and gives rise to dramatic symptoms.
Symptoms: The following symptoms point towards a possibility of diabetes:
- Polyurea (excessive and frequent urination) : The sugar escaping in the urine, drags along with itself, a large quantity of water. A diabetic, therefore, frequently passes large amounts of urine.
- Polydipsia (dryness of mouth and excessive thirst) : This symptom is the result of efforts by the body to compensate for the fluids lost through excessive urine.
- Polyphagia (excessive hunger): In diabetes, glucose cannot enter the various body-cells. Thus the cells starve in spite of being bathed by the glucose-rich serum. They suffer from ‘poverty in the midst of plenty’. To overcome this cellular starvation, the body gives rise to abnormal and excessive hunger.
- Loss of weight: When the cells cannot utilize glucose, the body disintegrates stored fats to provide the cells with the necessary nourishment. Therefore, the person loses weight.
- Weakness, fatigue and body-ache: The body also disintegrates stored muscle protein to nourish the starving cells. This is the cause of undue weakness and fatigue.
- Mental fatigue and lack of concentration: The brain cells have to depend chiefly on glucose for their nourishment. However, they cannot utilize the available glucose, due to which the person experiences undue mental fatigue, cannot concentrate and becomes forgetful.
- Wound-infection and delayed healing: Glucose rich blood is a good breeding medium for pus-forming micro -organisms. Moreover, diabetes also affects the small blood vessels (micro-angiopathy) and nerves (neuropathy) leading to a decrease in the blood-supply of the skin and derangement of skin-sensations. That is the reason why even a small wound on a diabetic person’s body easily gets infected and fails to heal in time.
- Easy susceptibility to infections of the skin, gums and the respiratory system: The glucose-rich blood of a diabetic provides optimum conditions for a rapid growth and reproduction of disease-causing micro-organisms. Besides, the hormonal imbalance causes a decrease in the natural resistance power of the body against disease. Hence a diabetic easily contracts infections of the skin, gums and the respiratory tract. He commonly suffers from boils, carbuncles, pyorrhoea, cough and colds.
- Intense itching all over the body, especially that of the genital parts: Many a time, diabetes is suspected and later diagnosed in women complaining of intense itching of the genital parts. Irritation of the nerve-endings on the skin and on the genital organs due to excessive glucose in the blood is the cause for this trouble.
- Frequent changes in the sharpness of vision and the spectacle-numbers: Changes in the glucose concentration of the internal fluid (aqueous) of the eyes leads to variations in their focusing power. That is the reason why a diabetic has to often change his spectacle lenses. The crystalline lens of the eye depends, for its nourishment and transparency, on the glucose dissolved in the aqueous. In diabetes, the nourishment of the crystalline lens is jeopardised, leading to an untimely cataract.
- Aching or numbness of limbs and an abnormal increase or decrease in skin-sensations: Diabetes untowardly affects the whole nervous system to give rise to these symptoms.
- Sexual debility or impotence: General weakness, disintegration of muscle-protein, mental depression and undesirable changes in the blood-circulatory and nervous systems give rise to these symptoms.
- Diabetic unconsciousness (hyperglycemic coma) : As stated earlier, the body disintegrates stored fats to nourish starving cells. Fat disintegration leads to the production of ketone bodies in the blood. Excessive increase of ketone bodies makes the blood acidic and gradually leads to unconsciousness. Many a time, diabetes is suspected or diagnosed after the victim becomes unconscious.
Besides, following circumstances should also arouse suspicion of diabetes:
- Sudden weight-gain after the age of 45 years.
- Coronary heart disease.
- Cerebral haemorrage.
The symptoms of diabetes described above are observed in only about 30 percent of diabetics. In others, especially during the earlier stages of the disease, there are no symptoms and the disease is diagnosed due to a presenting complication or accidentally, e.g.,
- During a general check-up for some other disease.
- During laboratory investigations prior to some surgery.
- During investigations advised by a Life Insurance Corporation.