The reality is, many people have diabetes. In Canada alone, one in three of us already have the disease or will develop it later in life. So how do I know if I have diabetes? If you have your suspicions, or just want to get a better idea of your risk factors for diabetes, here are some key things to consider.
There are different types of diabetes
Remember that there are actually three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational (which develops in pregnancy). In type 1 diabetes, your body just can’t produce insulin and in type 2, your body isn’t responding to insulin as well as it should be. The symptoms for both types of diabetes are similar, although these symptoms can develop a lot faster in type 1. Find more information on the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes here.
Type 2 diabetes is also a lot more common than type 1. Unfortunately, half of the people who have it, aren’t diagnosed. This is because they don’t recognize the symptoms or may attribute them to other conditions. Plus, some symptoms of type 2 diabetes may not show up for years and years.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes
Here are some signs and symptoms to be aware of that might indicate you have diabetes or prediabetes.
- Frequent urination, especially waking up frequently in the night to go
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Constant bad breath
- Feeling tired, even after a good night’s sleep
- Blurry vision that changes from day to day
- Having cuts and wounds that are slow to heal
- Tingling, numbness or pain in your hands and feet
- Skin changes, such as sudden dark spots around the nape of your neck or under your armpits
- Getting frequent urinary tract, yeast or vaginal infections
- Losing or gaining weight without trying to
- Having frequent gum infections
- Feeling itchy all the time, due to yeast infections, dry skin or poor circulation.
You can find more information about type 2 diabetes symptoms here.
Why early diagnosis is key
When you wait too long to diagnose your diabetes, you run the risk of developing diabetes-related complications, such as eye, kidney, gum or nerve damage. You also increase your risk of heart-related issues which is never good.
While there is no cure for diabetes, you can make a big difference in preventing the damage diabetes can cause, by making some key lifestyle changes. These include getting enough exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and taking any medicine your doctor prescribes for your condition.
How do I get a diagnosis?
Diabetes can be easily detected through a blood test administered by a healthcare provider, which essentially tells you if your blood sugar is too high. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of diabetes or have multiple risk factors, you may be given one of four different diagnostic tests:
- Fasting blood glucose (a blood sugar level of more than 7.0 mmol/L indicates diabetes)
- A1C (an A1C level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes)
- Oral glucose tolerance test (a blood sugar level of 11.1 mmol/L or higher is a sign of diabetes)
- Random blood glucose test (again, a blood sugar level of 11.1 mmol/L or higher is indicative to diabetes)
Find more information about these specific tests and how diabetes is diagnosed here.
Am I at increased risk?
There is no way to predict whether you will get type 1 diabetes. However, for type 2 there are some key risk factors. These include: being overweight, being over 40 years old, having a sedentary lifestyle and having family members with diabetes.
You can check your risk for diabetes by getting screened by a healthcare provider, or by doing the Canadian Diabetes Risk (CANRISK) questionnaire. Just remember that having risk factors doesn’t mean you will get diabetes. It just indicates that your risk of getting the disease is greater than that of the general public. Find more on diabetes risk factors and ways to reduce them here.
If you suspect you have diabetes, don’t wait to contact your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis. Being aware of and getting the proper treatment for a chronic condition like diabetes will help ensure you are taking the steps needed to maintain or improve your health.