Diabetes is an endocrine disorder in which your body builds up too much blood sugar. 

The body uses a hormone called insulin to help it turn glucose (blood sugar gained from eating food) into energy used by the brain, muscles and tissues. Diabetes prevents this process from happening, either by limiting (or stopping) the body’s insulin production or by tricking your cells into not using it properly. That eventually leads to a buildup of sugar which, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems. 

Causes of Diabetes 

There are three main types of diabetes, which are sometimes linked by the term “diabetes mellitus.” The exact causes of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are unknown, though genetic and environmental factors have been linked to them. Type 1 diabetes is known to be an autoimmune disorder. Being overweight is believed to be a major risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes.  
Gestational diabetes, which occurs in pregnant women, is the third main type of diabetes. Hormones produced by the placenta can cause the mother’s cells to become more resistant to insulin, so the pancreas produces more insulin to make up for that. But when the pancreas is unable to keep up with the increased demand for insulin, too much glucose remains in the blood—which can cause gestational diabetes. 

Symptoms of Diabetes 

Symptoms of diabetes are not always obvious and, in some cases, can mimic those of the flu. They include: 

  • Extreme thirst 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Unintended weight loss 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Frequent unexplained infections 
  • Fatigue 
  • Weakness 
  • Tingling hands and feet 
  • Slow-healing sores 

Men may also experience erectile dysfunction and decreased sex drive. Women may develop dry skin as well as frequent yeast or urinary tract infections. 

Long-term complications of diabetes include: 

  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Kidney damage 
  • Eye damage 
  • Foot damage 
  • Dental problems 
  • Skin infections 

Diagnosing Diabetes 

A healthcare specialist can diagnose diabetes by checking your glucose level with several tests, such as: 

  • Fasting glucose test 
  • Random glucose test 
  • A1c test 
  • Oral glucose test 

Because initial symptoms can be mild, it’s important to get tested before symptoms become more severe. If your doctor diagnoses you with prediabetes, lifestyle changes may be able to slow the development of type 2 diabetes, if not prevent it entirely. 

Treating Diabetes 

Diabetes is a treatable condition most often managed by lifestyle changes, though there are also medications available for further treatment. The endocrinology experts at Tampa General Hospital can help you find the right plan to gain control over your blood glucose level and live a healthy, comfortable life.