The typical symptoms of diabetes occur as a result of the high levels of glucose in the bloodstream and its passage into the urine and other tissues.
These are frequent urination and thirst.
Thirst arises as a result of the dehydration caused by the frequent urination. Dehydration and loss of nutrient calories in the urine lead to weight loss and hunger.
Passage of glucose into the tissues of the eye can cause fluctuating degrees of blurred vision.
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When these symptoms are prolonged and severe, as is typical with Type 1 diabetes, serious changes occur in our blood chemistry due to the deficiency of insulin.
Those changes, coupled with dehydration, result in dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, and ultimately coma, which if untreated can lead to death.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, when severe and inadequately treated, can be associated with coma and death.
Although coma is less common in type 2 diabetes, it is more common for it to result in death, as people with type 2 diabetes tend to be older and to have more medical problems.
Two other important points are worth noting. The first is that diabetes may not cause any symptoms.
In fact, one of every four people believed to have diabetes is unaware of it and is undiagnosed.
However, as diabetes of even moderate severity can lead to complications and shorten lifespan, it is important to make the diagnosis, even in people without symptoms.
The second point is that the majority of people with diabetes may not have any symptoms from the elevated blood sugar, but it can still present with symptoms from its complications.
In fact, one of every three people admitted with a sudden heart attack is found to have diabetes or prediabetes of which he or she or the doctor was unaware.
Neuropathy is present in two of every five patients with type 2 diabetes at the time of diagnosis, while eye damage (retinopathy) is present in one of every five and kidney damage (nephropathy) is present in one in ten, indicating that the diabetes was ongoing for many months or even years before diagnosis.
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