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Diabetes Symptoms and Diagnosis

Diabetes Symptoms

An increased level of knowledge and awareness is essential for diabetes prevention, early detection of symptoms, diagnosis and management. However, one challenge in managing diabetes is the lack of awareness concerning the disease. Globally, as approximately 463 million adults living with diabetes, there is a low level of public awareness concerning the diabetes in Kenya.

One report of the Kenya National Diabetes Strategy from the Ministry of Health revealed that less than 30 per cent of public awareness and knowledge of diabetes in Kenya exists in the country. Trends of knowledge concerning diabetes vary based on education and region. While many were found to have little concern towards diabetes, 41 percent showed unwillingness to adopt healthier lifestyles based on findings.  

As it is essential to identify the symptoms so as to diagnose and treat diabetes, we need to understand how it affects our bodies. Diabetes affects how your body regulates blood sugar and the disease generally manifests itself in many forms including: prediabetes followed by Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes.

These forms of diabetes exhibit many similar symptoms such as frequent urination, a feeling of hunger, thirsty and fatigue. Patients also suffer from blurry vision, and sore throats. Without interventions, secondary conditions such as kidney failure, retinopathy (eye disease) and neuropathy (Nerve damage) occur. However, these symptoms present themselves differently due to varied factors such as the weight gain and obesity, family history to mention a few.    


Pre-diabetes is a condition that is often overlooked leading to poor management and high risks of complications such as proceeding to type 2 diabetes and its complications like nephropathy – Kidney complications, diabetic retinopathy – Eye complications and increased risks of vascular disease. This is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than it should be but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. It can also be referred to as impaired fasting glucose. The progression to diabetes is often common among those with pre-diabetes.

Prediabetes Symptoms

Pre-diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many symptoms are subtle and they are can be overlooked with symptoms of other diseases. This poses a major health concern with costly implications possibly leading to death. However, some of the common symptoms to look out for include: thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision and bouts of fatigue.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. Without insulin, blood glucose levels eventually rise to dangerously high levels. Type 1 diabetes symptoms are usually mild but can become severe especially in children. Patients have visible symptoms that usually develop faster like within weeks and mostly affect people in their adolescent stages and childhood years.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

Symptoms for type 1 diabetes include increased hunger even after eating, fatigue, dry mouth, extreme thirst, stomach upset and sometimes vomiting. Some patients experience frequent urination, skin infections, urinary tract or vaginal infections and weight loss despite continuous eating.

Children also experience mood swings and may find themselves wetting beds. The condition becomes severe when patients have a feeling of confusion, have shortness of breath and experience trembles. Some people may experience pain in their bellies and neurological pain.

Type 2 Diabetes

This type is very common in Kenya and elsewhere in the world. According to studies, Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 percent of total diabetes prevalence in a population. Unlike Type 1, symptoms in type 2 diabetic patients develop slowly and they may become visible after several years.

Some patients may suffer the illness silently without any symptoms until their condition worsens. People who are middle-aged or older are most likely to get this type. The condition can be reversed through lifestyle changes including maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in physical activities. More so, new interventions are coming up in which diabetes reversal can be done.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Symptoms for type 2 diabetes can be very subtle. In fact, for some people, with type 2 diabetes may not show any symptoms at all. It’s therefore important to get screened at least once every year. Some symptoms include feeling very thirsty, completely worn out, urinate often and experience a blurry vision. Some people may also feel hungry and may experience lose in weight. Other may experience wounds that do not heal and have yeast that keeps recurring shortly after treatment and a host of other infections. Some people have dark rushes around the neck and armpits.

Diagnosis of Diabetes

On a visit to the clinic, a doctor will conduct blood tests to determine the level of your blood sugar for the last two to three months (HBA1C). The process usually involves drawing some blood. Similarly, your doctor may recommend a test on urine for glucose.

Based on test results, a person without diabetes would have a blood fasting glucose levels ranging between 4.0 to 5.9 mmol/L (millimoles per litre) and up to 7.8 mmol/L after eating. However, those with pre-diabetes would often have fasting glucose values ranging from 6.1 and 6.9 mmol/L. A level higher than that would indicate type 1 or 2 diabetes.

For the patient, being diagnosed with diabetes can lead to negative emotions not to mention initial shock and denial. But these feelings are understandable. With so much to think about concerning life changes to make, social support and recognising that you are not alone makes a difference. Without adequate support, anxiety, depression and sleepless nights can occur in the long run. 

Diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes

Looking at the chat below, the diagnosis of diabetes is based on blood test readings. The term pre-diabetes is used during the first stage. Any level above 7.0 mmol/L (126 mg/dL) would indicate diabetes: