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Causes, Risk Factors, and Symptoms of Diabetes

There is not a single cause for diabetes. In fact, several factors can play apart in the onset.

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Heredity - Type 2 diabetes is more common in individuals with a family history of diabetes.

Age, lifestyle, activity, and other health problems - The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age, especially for those aged 45 or older, as well as being overweight and lacking in physical activity. Individuals who have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, impaired glucose tolerance, or pre-diabetes (formerly called "borderline diabetes") are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Sex - More women tend to develop diabetes than men. Women who have had gestational diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Obesity - When obesity is present, the body does not use insulin properly. The pancreas must work harder to make enough insulin in individuals who are obese in order to keep the blood sugar at normal or near normal levels. Extra fat cells resist the insulin, causing the blood sugar to elevate.

Inactivity - Activity helps to burn sugar and make the pathway more efficient.

Diet - Eating sugar does not cause diabetes. Almost all food turns into blood sugar. All of some foods turn into blood sugar while only parts of other foods turn into blood sugar. The most effective way to manage blood sugar with diet is to balance carbohydrate foods with protein foods at every meal and every snack.

Stress - When the above risk factors are present, stress increases the chance for a person to develop diabetes.

Remember that diabetes is not contagious!

What are the symptoms? If your blood sugar is high, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss and weakness
  • Visual changes
  • Slow healing of cuts and bruises
  • Itching of the skin, or feminine itching in women
  • Pain or numbness in the toes and occasionally the fingers
  • No symptoms at all

Diabetes in a Nutshell