World Diabetes Day (WDD) was created in 1991 by IDF and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2006 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/225. It is marked every year on 14 November, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922.
WDD is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public and political spotlight.
Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is an important source of energy for the cells that make up the muscles and tissues. It’s also the brain’s main source of fuel.
The main cause of diabetes varies by type. But no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can lead to serious health problems.
Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include prediabetes and gestational diabetes. Prediabetes happens when blood sugar levels are higher than normal. But the blood sugar levels aren’t high enough to be called diabetes. And prediabetes can lead to diabetes unless steps are taken to prevent it. Gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy. But it may go away after the baby is born.
The following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.
Common symptoms of diabetes:
•Feeling very thirsty
•Feeling very hungry—even though you are eating
•Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
•Weight loss—even though you are eating more (type 1)
•Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
•Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes.
Although there are many similarities between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the cause of each is very different. And the treatment is usually quite different, too. Some people, especially adults who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, may have symptoms similar to type 2 diabetes and this overlap between types can be confusing. Take our Risk Test to find out if you are at increased risk for having type 2 diabetes.
Can symptoms appear suddenly?
In people with type 1 diabetes, the onset of symptoms can be very sudden, while in type 2 diabetes, they tend to come about more gradually, and sometimes there are no signs at all.
Symptoms sometimes occur after a viral illness. In some cases, a person may reach the point of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) before a type 1 diagnosis is made. DKA occurs when blood glucose is dangerously high and the body can’t get nutrients into the cells because of the absence of insulin. The body then breaks down muscle and fat for energy, causing an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Symptoms of DKA include a fruity odor on the breath, heavy, taxed breathing and vomiting. If left untreated, DKA can result in stupor, unconsciousness, and even death.
People who have symptoms—of type 1 or of DKA—should contact their health care provider immediately for an accurate diagnosis. Keep in mind that these symptoms could signal other problems, too.
Some people with type 1 have a “honeymoon” period, a brief remission of symptoms while the pancreas is still secreting some insulin. The honeymoon phase usually occurs after someone has started taking insulin. A honeymoon can last as little as a week or even up to a year. But it’s important to know that the absence of symptoms doesn’t mean the diabetes is gone. The pancreas will eventually be unable to secrete insulin, and, if untreated, the symptoms will return.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes onset in an infant or child
The young child who is urinating frequently, drinking large quantities, losing weight, and becoming more and more tired and ill is the classic picture of a child with new-onset type 1 diabetes. If a child who is potty-trained and dry at night starts having accidents and wetting the bed again, diabetes might be the culprit.
Although it is easy to make the diagnosis diabetes in a child by checking blood sugar at the doctor’s office or emergency room, the tricky part is recognizing the symptoms and knowing to take the child to get checked. Raising the awareness that young children, including infants, can get type 1 diabetes can help parents know when to check for type 1 diabetes.
Sometimes children can be in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) when they are diagnosed with diabetes. When there is a lack of insulin in the body, the body can build up high levels of an acid called ketones. DKA is a medical emergency that usually requires hospitalization and immediate care with insulin and IV fluids. After diagnosis and early in treatment, some children may go through a phase where they seem to be making enough insulin again. This is commonly called the “honeymoon phase”. It may seem like diabetes has been cured, but over time they will require appropriate doses of insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in the normal range.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes onset in adults:
When an adult is diagnosed with diabetes, they are often mistakenly told that they have type 2 diabetes. This is because there may be a lack of understanding by some doctors that type 1 diabetes can start at any age, and in people of every race, shape and size. People with type 1 diabetes who have elevated blood glucose and classic risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as being overweight or physically inactive, are often misdiagnosed. It can also be tricky because some adults with new-onset type 1 diabetes are not sick at first. Their doctor finds an elevated blood sugar level at a routine visit and starts them on diet, exercise and an oral medication.
Maybe it’s a different type
If you or someone you know is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but isn’t responding well to the typical treatments for type 2 diabetes, it may be worth a visit to an endocrinologist to determine what type of diabetes is happening. Generally, this requires antibody tests and possibly the measurement of a C-peptide level.