One in five Filipinos are diabetic or pre-diabetic, many of which are living with the disease but do not know it. That is why the Department of Health (DOH) has declared the fourth week of July to be “Diabetes Awareness Week” to raise awareness of the disease.
We all know the risks that come with diabetes- leg amputations are very rare among even long-term diabetics, but long-term kidney, heart, eyes, and nerve problems are long effects of diabetes if left untreated. Diabetes, however, is not a death sentence. While it is true that there is no cure for diabetes, diabetics have been able to minimize symptoms and dramatically improve their quality of life through exercise and a healthy diet. And prediabetics, those at high risk of developing diabetes, have been able to prevent developing the disease through similar lifestyle changes.
Common Diabetes Myths Debunked
Certain common misconceptions about diabetes, however, have to be disproven. One common myth about diabetes is that it is a condition that overwhelmingly affects overweight or unhealthy-looking people. On the contrary, over one-fourth of diabetics can be underweight or even very healthy looking. This is because Type 1 Diabetes often begins in early childhood, with genetics and environmental factors being the primary triggers.
Another common myth that keeps many Filipinos from getting tested for diabetes is the idea that only older people can become diabetics. While age is certainly a risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, so is an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and obesity, the three of which can develop among people of any age group. In fact, there has been a startling increase in child diabetes worldwide, further exacerbated by lockdowns due to the global pandemic.
With that said, regardless of age or appearance, here are some warning signs of diabetes:
Excessive Urination (Sobra sa Pagpangihi)
Excessive urination is a sign of both Type 1 and 2 Diabetes. This is because when the body senses that your body has too much sugar, the kidney will work overtime to remove as much sugar as possible through urination. This constant exit of fluids, in turn, causes the body to be dehydrated, which then creates this constant feeling of thirstiness. Excessive urination can also be a sign of kidney infection or UTI, so this alone is not conclusive of diabetes.
Severe Thirst and Hunger
Severe thirst comes with excessive urination, but severe and constant hunger is also a sign of diabetes. This is because diabetes is caused by a body’s resistance to insulin, which in turn prevents glucose (a key source of energy for the body) from entering the body.
Feeling Dizzy or fatigued (kakapoy o paglipong)
The dehydration and the constant flushing out of nutrients can lead to potential diabetics feeling dizzy or fatigued in spite of having regular rest. For diabetics, changing blood sugar levels can either cause hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (lowered blood sugar levels), both of which can cause nausea.
Numbness of hands and feet
High blood sugar levels can affect the nerves, leading to numbness in the hands and feet. This is a very troubling sign of early nerve damage, and if left untreated it can lead to foot ulcers and the need for amputation. Numbness, tingling, or pain arising from the hands or feet is a serious warning sign, but a true sign of irreversible nerve damage is when ulcers arise without any pain or sensation.
Another troubling sign for the potential to watch out for is blurry vision. This is caused by high blood sugar levels, which cause the eyes to swell leading to difficulty in seeing clearly. If left untreated, diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, eventually leading to blindness.
Fighting Diabetes requires a lifestyle change
There are various other diabetes symptoms worth mentioning-like unexplained weight loss, irritability, and depression. If you or anyone you know has these symptoms, the first thing to do is consult your doctor and get tested. Hi-Precision offers two blood sugar tests: FBS (fasting blood sugar) test and glycosylated hemoglobin or HBA1C test. The first test is akin to a snapshot of a person’s current sugar levels at the time being, while HBA1C is like a complete record of a person’s sugar levels within the last three months. Depending on what is needed, doctors will recommend any of the two not only to screen for diabetes but to monitor a prediabetic or diabetic’s current status so doctors can prescribe the best treatment. Other tests may be requested, for example, if a diabetic is already experiencing eye problems, a diabetic would need regular eye screening before or treatment.
All diabetics require a committed lifestyle change to get better- but the exact changes depend on the severity of the condition. Many diabetics cannot eat sugary foods anymore, while some still can albeit with strict regulation. Working with a doctor and/or dietician is essential to know what kinds of food and how much food is acceptable per meal. Another important part of getting better as a diabetic is staying committed to consistently exercising, eating healthy foods, and taking medication in spite of side effects.
Through early and regular testing, Hi-Precision can help pre-diabetics and diabetics receive early treatment and check their progress towards recovery every step of the way.