Health Topics

What Causes Diabetes and How Can I Tell if I Have It?

The Causes of Diabetes

Healthcare clinicians do not yet know what causes diabetes. However, they do know that certain factors can increase your risk of getting diabetes. If you participate in the following behaviors or have genetic links to these factors, you may develop diabetes:

  • Family history of diabetes or inherited tendency
  • African-American, Hispanic or Native American race or ethnic background
  • Obesity (being 20 percent or more over your desired body weight)
  • Physical stress (such as surgery or illness)
  • Use of certain medications, like blood pressure medications or steroid medications
  • Injury to pancreas (such as infection, tumor, surgery or accident)
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Hypertension
  • Abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels
  • Age (risk increases with age)
  • Alcohol (risk increases with years of heavy alcohol use)
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy (Pregnancy puts extra stress on a woman's body, which causes some women to develop diabetes. Blood sugar levels often return to normal after childbirth. Yet, women who develop diabetes during pregnancy have an increased chance of developing diabetes later in life.)

Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Weak, tired feeling
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
  • Slow healing sores or cuts
  • Dry and itchy skin (usually in the vaginal or groin area)
  • Frequent yeast infections

How Can I Know if I Have Diabetes?

Your healthcare clinician can perform blood and urine tests to see if you have diabetes. Normal blood sugar is between 70 mg/dl and 100 mg/dl. The standard diagnosis of diabetes is made when two blood tests show that your fasting blood sugar level (blood sugar before you have eaten anything) is 126 mg/dl or greater.