Correctly diagnosing someone with diabetes can be challenging for doctors and individuals alike.
For instance, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, type 1 diabetes in children can often produce flu-like symptoms. And sometimes one form of diabetes may be mistaken for another. An uncommon variety of diabetes called diabetes insipidus, which causes fluid loss, can resemble both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, according to Medical News Today.
The issue, then, becomes accurate identification of the disease as early as possible. Here are some tips to help you and your doctor arrive at the correct diagnosis.
The symptoms of diabetes
Different types of diabetes may share several core symptoms. Those include:
• Slow-healing cuts and bruises
• Frequent urination
• Greater feelings of hunger and thirst
• Increased weight loss
• Pain or numbness in extremities
• Blurry vision
There are other symptoms that may appear in fewer people. Women with diabetes may experience decreased arousal or a general disinterest in sex. Both men and women may develop acanthosis nigricans, discolorations of the skin ranging in color from brown to black. They're often found in the armpit, groin and neck. These are not the only possible symptoms of diabetes, and having any of them does not necessarily mean you have diabetes. That’s why a professional diagnosis is essential.
It's also worth noting that even if someone does have diabetes, they may not exhibit symptoms. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes often display few signs, and often the only verification is through blood tests. Even those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may not show symptoms for many years, and even those could be sporadic.
Who's more likely to be diagnosed
While almost anyone can be diagnosed with diabetes, there are certain age brackets and racial groups that are more susceptible. Groups more likely to develop type 2 diabetes include Native Hawaiians, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and American Indians. Many individuals in these groups are overweight, which contributes to the higher blood sugar levels that often lead to diabetes.
Regarding age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report claiming that an increasing number of young people were being diagnosed. In those ages 20 to 44, there were 371,000 new cases, compared to 400,000 new cases in the 65-and-older age group. Still, the group most at risk is those individuals between 45 and 64. They had 892,000 new cases in one recent year.
Even gender can contribute to diabetes. According to the CDC, of 29 million American adults with diabetes, most were men—some 15.6 million. Diabetes can also cause different complications depending upon gender, as women are more likely to experience vision problems and blindness after being diagnosed.
Early screening tests
Given the serious possible complications of diabetes, regular screening for the disease is appropriate in people with diabetes risk factors, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care. The researchers say that there is a lack of data to demonstrate the benefits of screening everyone for diabetes, but they suggest that it is a matter for all patients to discuss with their doctors.
The basic test analyzes fasting plasma glucose. If two separate tests show a blood sugar level of 126 milligrams per deciliter or more, then a diagnosis of diabetes is most likely. Still, current screening doesn't catch everything. A report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (that was endorsed on the American Diabetes Association’s website) found that screening by current recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force may miss 50 percent of all diagnoses.