What are the Early Signs of Diabetes in Teenagers?


One of the most common diabetes myths is that this disease only occurs among adults. Around 1.1 million children and adolescents below 20 years old living with type 1 diabetes worldwide, with over 132,000 diagnosed yearly. While the cause of diabetes among the youth is unknown, family history and genetics may play a role in this matter.

When left unmanaged, diabetes can result in heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, and other critical health conditions. As early as now, young people need to look for signs of diabetes. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve their well-being throughout life.

Here are early signs of diabetes that teenagers should watch out for and ways to prevent it from worsening.


Early Signs of Diabetes in Teenagers

There are mainly two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Usually, the diagnosis for the former is during childhood or adolescence, while the latter is during adulthood. However, type 2 diabetes can still occur among young people.


Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes symptoms usually develop within a few weeks or months. These symptoms include:

    1. Increased appetite
    2. Sudden weight loss
    3. Increased thirst and urination
    4. Fatigue
    5. Blurred vision
    6. Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
    7. Itchy or dry skin
    8. Slow-healing wounds
    9. Fruity breath smell

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes symptoms gradually develop over several years. They’re also less noticeable than type 1 diabetes symptoms. Type 2 symptoms include:

      1. Frequent urination
      2. Increased thirst
      3. Heart problems
      4. Dysfunctional immune system
      5. Tingling, weakness, or pain in hands and feet
      6. Itching around the genitals
      7. Blurred vision due to eye dryness
      8. Slow-healing wounds
      9. Sudden weight loss
      10. Dark, velvety patches of skin 

Some teenagers may experience only four main symptoms or none at all. Doctors may also diagnose them with other diseases before landing on diabetes. Nonetheless, experts still recommend teenagers be aware of the early signs above and see a healthcare professional get an official diagnosis and treatment. 


Types of Diabetes Tests

Doctors will usually conduct one or more of the following blood tests to confirm their diagnosis of diabetes.

A1C Test

This test checks the average blood glucose level of the patient over the past 2 or 3 months. Patients aren’t required to fast or drink anything before taking the test. An A1C below 5.7% is normal, while a result between 5.7% and 6.4% indicates prediabetes. However, an A1C result of 6.5% or higher confirms diabetes.


Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) or fasting blood sugar test

This test measures the patient’s blood sugar after an overnight or eight-hour fast. The normal blood sugar is 99 mg/dL or lower. However, 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and an FPG of 126 mg/dL or higher confirms diabetes.


Oral glucose tolerance (OGTT)

Like FPG, this test requires the patient to fast overnight before having their blood drawn for the OGTT. Afterward, they are required to drink a liquid containing glucose and have their blood sugar level checked, possibly two to three times in one-hour intervals.

A blood sugar level of 140 mg/dL or lower is normal, while a result of 140 to 199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher confirms diabetes.


Random plasma glucose test

This test only measures the patient’s blood sugar at the time of testing. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher confirms diabetes.


Autoantibody test

Doctors may also administer an autoantibody test to see if the patient has them, which are often present in type 1 diabetes. Autoantibodies are immune proteins that attack the body’s tissues or organs.


Ketones urine test

Doctors may also prescribe a ketones urine test to see if the patient has ketones, a chemical in the liver that breaks down fats to produce energy. The body produces ketones when it fails to produce glucose. However, too much of this chemical can make the blood acidic.

These tests are easy to administer. Results are also usually available after a day or two. As such, you can know if you have diabetes immediately, helping you address the situation appropriately.


How to Prevent Diabetes

Currently, there’s no direct cure for diabetes. However, there are ways you can manage your blood sugar and prevent it from affecting your body further. Here are some healthy habits to control diabetes at an early age.

Stay active

Exercising at least three to four times a week can stabilize blood sugar levels, push the body to process insulin, and improve mood and cognition. Physical activity can also strengthen the heart and respiratory system. A simple 30-minute walk will suffice as an exercise to control diabetes.


Follow a well-balanced diet

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, fiber, and lean proteins can reduce diabetes complications. Healthcare professionals also recommend limiting excessive sugar, pasta, and carbs consumption.


Manage stress

Stress can significantly affect blood sugar levels and the body’s insulin production. As such, it’s important to follow effective stress management practices to protect the body. Meet with friends, read a book, watch a movie, or do other relaxing hobbies to manage stress. 


Quit vices

Vices such as smoking and alcohol intake can harm the body in many ways. For example, smoking can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular issues and diabetes because nicotine raises blood sugar levels, preventing the body from accepting insulin.

Excessive drinking will also force the liver to focus on removing alcohol in the body instead of regulating blood sugar.

Quitting these vices may be challenging, especially if you’ve grown accustomed to them for a time. However, your body will thank you once you get rid of them and start taking care of yourself.


Monitor blood glucose level

Owning a capillary blood glucose monitoring (CBGM) kit helps monitor blood sugar levels throughout the day. While a prescription is not required to buy a kit, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional first to learn how to use it.

Live Longer and Healthier Through Early Detection

Teenagers may have difficulty dealing with diabetes since they’re battling a chronic condition while growing up and learning many new things about life. The key is to detect symptoms early and immediately seek professional help. Doing so allows you to start treatment and prevent the condition from worsening.


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