November is Diabetes awareness month. If you know little or nothing about type one diabetes (T1) take a few minutes to become familiar with the symptoms, so that you or someone you know can get checked out on time and avoid serious complications as a result of a late diagnosis.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is one of the most serious, life-threatening complications of type one diabetes. Many people have DKA by the time they are diagnosed. This can lead to T1 complications later in life, no matter how well it is managed. The best way to prevent this is to know the symptoms of T1 and get checked out if you notice the symptoms in yourself or your child. If a friend or colleague complains of the symptoms advise them to get checked promptly. Better to find out that you don’t have it than risk getting very seriously ill and going unconscious.
Nobody wants to get T1, but early diagnosis can mean a much better health outcome. People often put symptoms down to a recent illness or extra commitments and delay going to the Doctor until they are very ill.
These are the usual symptoms of T1:
- Thirst: Unable to quench thirst no matter how much liquid is consumed. Excess glucose builds up in the blood stream and the body responds by trying to flush out the sugar, which requires unusually high demands for water/other fluids. People often drink sugary drinks which in turn makes the situation worse.
- Toilet: As the body tries to flush out the excess sugar in the blood stream by drinking lots of fluids, frequent visits to the toilet occur. Symptoms can also include urinary type infections.
- Tiredness: Lack of energy and sleeping more than usual results from body cells having no fuel to allow them to work properly. The body is also working extra hard to flush out the excess glucose in the blood stream, making it even more exhausted.
- Weight loss: Cells in the body are not getting fuel from food eaten so they pull fuel from any area they can which results in rapid weight loss over a short period of time.
- Excessive hunger: The body recognises that cells aren’t getting fuel from food and tries to compensate by increasing the appetite, but this makes the situation worse. If more food is eaten it puts even more strain on the body to get rid of the glucose.
- Blurred vision: Due to excessive blood glucose levels, fluid levels in the eye may be reduced, causing blurred vision.
- Breath: Sweet smelling breath. In advanced stages, breathing may become laboured.
- Skin infections: Excessively dry skin with possible infections. Every organ, including skin, are affected the lack of available fuel.
- Nausea or vomiting: Abdominal pain and feeling very unwell.
- Unconsciousness: When body organs cannot cope with the lack of fuel (food) anymore it goes into a state of unconsciousness.
If you attend your Doctor with symptoms they should carry out a finger blood test immediately. Some Doctors advise a patient to return in a few days for a fasting blood test, but this can lead to a delayed diagnosis. Insist on a finger blood test or seek advice elsewhere immediately. Many pharmacies will carry out blood sugar checks. Go to A&E if you can’t get help elsewhere.
Once you get suspicious that the symptoms listed above need to be investigated only drink water or herbal tea. Definitely no sugary or milky drinks.
If you or your child is diagnosed with T1 it can seem overwhelming, but take it a day at a time. There is lots of help and support available. I hope you will find lots of tips on this website.