Exhaustion, food cravings, gastrointestinal issues, and just feeling run down are symptoms that many of us experience weekly or, in some cases, daily. How do we tell, then, whether these symptoms are part of simple fatigue or something more serious, like a chronic illness? And if our symptoms are signs of an undiagnosed chronic illness, how do we go about getting a proper diagnosis?
These are the types of questions many of us frequently ask ourselves. When we attempt to answer them on our own, however, usually through a deep dive into medical websites, we often come out with more questions than when we started. For those who may have an undiagnosed case of diabetes, this situation is especially common. If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms you suspect may be due to diabetes, finding the right help can profoundly impact your life.
If diabetes is a concern, but you have not received a formal diagnosis, we can assist you in identifying if your symptoms match. Below are 10 short questions that prompt you to assess your symptoms. Depending on your responses, speaking with a diabetes nutritionist about testing and the next steps may be advisable.
Diabetes Symptom Quiz
Disclaimer: Please note that this quiz is a screening tool to assess risk for diabetes and should not be used as a definitive diagnosis but rather as a guide. If you suspect you may have diabetes, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Have you noticed an increase in your thirst?
- Do you find yourself urinating more frequently?
- Have you experienced unexplained weight loss recently?
- Are you often feeling unusually tired or fatigued?
- Have you noticed any changes in your vision (e.g., blurriness)?
- Have you noticed any wounds or sores that are slow to heal?
- Do you experience frequent infections or have skin conditions that won't go away?
- Do you often notice a tingling sensation or numbness in your hands or feet?
- Do you feel unusually hungry, even after eating?
- Is there a history of diabetes in your family?
- Have you been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or another condition that increases the risk of diabetes?
- Do you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
- Do you struggle to manage a healthy weight?
- Is your physical activity limited?
- Are you 45 years old or older?
This self-assessment tool is designed to help identify potential risk factors related to diabetes. If you've answered "yes" to five or more questions from 1 to 9, you might be experiencing symptoms commonly associated with diabetes. Additionally, a "yes" to any of the questions 10 to 15 could indicate possible risk factors for developing diabetes.
However, it's crucial to understand that this questionnaire doesn't provide a diagnosis. Its purpose is to spotlight potential concerns that warrant further evaluation by a healthcare professional. Having one or more of these risk factors significantly heightens your chances of developing diabetes. Yet, this assessment can only be accurately confirmed through a medical diagnosis by a healthcare provider.
Remember, only a healthcare provider can diagnose diabetes through specific medical tests. If your responses indicate you may be at risk for diabetes, we highly recommend you to seek further evaluation from a medical provider.
If you're concerned about your potential diabetes risk and its management, consider connecting with our Top Nutrition Coaching service. We offer personalized one-on-one consultations with a registered dietitian who specializes in diabetes management. From the comfort of your own home, our specialists can help you manage your symptoms, learn to balance your diet, and guide you towards leading a healthier lifestyle. Effectively managing diabetes is critical to preventing complications and maintaining your quality of life. Use this questionnaire as a starting point towards improved health and remember to seek professional medical advice when necessary.
What Is Diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), diabetes is a "chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy." Although this definition is a rough outline of what the disease does, you may need more information about identifying signs of it in your day-to-day life.
To that end, it's important to know the three different types of diabetes and their associated risk factors and treatments. Although the presentation of symptoms differs across all three types of diabetes, the symptoms themselves are relatively uniform and include things such as:
- Frequent urination
- Unusual levels of thirst or hunger
- Fatigue, often extreme
- Impaired vision
- Slow wound healing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Neuropathy (tingling in the hands or feet)
- Common bouts of thrush
Type 1 Diabetes
With type 1 diabetes, a person's body cannot readily produce insulin, an essential hormone the system uses to move glucose from your blood into the rest of your body. Specifically, the immune systems of individuals with type 1 diabetes attack cells in the pancreas responsible for insulin production.
Usually, this form of diabetes is a genetic condition commonly present during childhood, though cases of adults developing diabetes later in life have also been recorded. Type 1 diabetes represents approximately 8% of all diabetes cases.
Although many symptoms are shared between the different types of diabetes, the primary difference between the symptoms of type 1 diabetes is the speed at which they present. These symptoms may develop much more quickly than those of type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.
Unfortunately, no cure for type 1 diabetes yet exists. Nevertheless, those living with the condition may effectively manage their symptoms by taking insulin, tracking blood sugar levels, and maintaining a balanced diet (especially regarding sugars and carbohydrates).
Additionally, doctors may prescribe metformin or pramlintide, both of which help control blood sugar, or even blood pressure medications to reduce the risk of high blood pressure or other cardiovascular issues associated with diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Unlike type 1, the development of type 2 diabetes is primarily related to a person's lifestyle, including diet and activity levels. In this form, a person's body still produces insulin but cannot effectively use it to manage normal levels of glucose or blood sugar. As a result, the pancreas is signaled to increase insulin production, resulting in issues separate from those in type 1.
This is known as "insulin resistance," and while science has not conclusively shown why some people develop insulin resistance while others do not, lifestyle, genetic predispositions, and even some environmental factors may play a role. Type 2 diabetes represents approximately 90% of all diabetes cases.
With type 2 diabetes, symptoms often develop more gradually over many years. Consequently, patients and doctors alike are more likely to overlook certain warning signs as they appear. Even so, certain risk factors, such as weight or ethnicity, may be used to predict the development of diabetes or prediabetes.
Although doctors may prescribe insulin to patients with type 2 diabetes, many other options exist to manage and reduce symptoms. Specifically, increased exercise, various medications, and eating healthier foods may drastically reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. While, like type 1, there is not yet a cure for this version of the disease, many cases indicate that patients with a strong treatment regimen may experience mild symptoms or, in some cases, no symptoms at all.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that only affects pregnant women and is perhaps less well-known than types 1 and 2. According to the American Diabetes Association, this version of diabetes affects 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States each year and can develop even when a patient has no history of diabetes.
Because the body is required to adapt hormone production to facilitate pregnancy, its cells undergo profound changes. For some, these changes include insulin resistance of varying degrees. If left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause serious complications for the mother or baby.
For many patients, gestational diabetes produces few or no symptoms during pregnancy. Nonetheless, routine prenatal care should include regular checks for the disease, as untreated gestational diabetes can have serious implications for mothers and their babies. While this condition may develop without a history of diabetes, it is more common in those with certain risk factors or who had prediabetes before becoming pregnant.
If, during pregnancy, your doctor notices the development of insulin resistance, they will typically advise an adjustment in your pattern of eating, increased physical activity, and potentially insulin injections. Although many cases of gestational diabetes resolve themselves following birth, at-risk individuals, such as those with prediabetes, may develop type 2. To manage the necessary eating pattern and additional nutrition considerations, many mothers turn to pregnancy nutrition coaching for help.
Benefits of a Diabetes Diagnosis
If you or a family member has an undiagnosed case of diabetes, early intervention can mean the difference between prolonged suffering and profound relief. And, because the symptoms of type 1, type 2, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes can often be similar, establishing which variant you have can inform treatment, reduce stress, and maximize your ability to manage the disease.
Benefits of Working with a Diabetes Registered Dietitian
Eating habits are essential to managing diabetes, so much so that Diabetes Canada recommends that all individuals with diabetes receive nutrition advice from a registered dietitian. Research has shown that receiving counseling and regular check-ins from a registered dietitian nutritionist or registered dietitian who specializes in diabetes management has numerous benefits.
Registered dietitian nutritionists treat diabetes with medical nutrition therapy (MNT). MNT includes a nutrition diagnosis and counseling service to help patients healthfully manage their diabetes. MNT is often covered by insurance, making it extremely worthwhile for those with diabetes to partake in this counseling.
It can be particularly dangerous for people with diabetes to participate in “quick-fix” or trendy diets. Attempting to manipulate your carbohydrate intake and insulin levels to lose weight can result in wide swings in blood glucose levels, leading to hypo or hyperglycemia, hospitalization, and death in severe cases.
It’s important to remember that health and body weight are not always directly correlated. Everyone has a different ideal body weight, which depends on genetics and muscle mass, among other factors. A registered dietitian can help you determine the appropriate weight range for your body as well as a healthy eating and activity plan to help you achieve this weight goal over time.
Blood sugar control
An A1C, also known as glycated hemoglobin, is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. Your A1C gives you insight into how well your diabetes is being managed.
Similar to weight management, registered dietitian nutritionists can help patients deduce which foods will raise their blood sugar and which ones won’t. Studies have shown that individuals with diabetes who receive MNT have A1Cs that are 1% to 2% lower than individuals with diabetes who do not receive MNT.
Counting carbohydrates is not necessary for every person with diabetes. However, for certain individuals, consuming the appropriate type and quantity of carbohydrates can be beneficial in regulating their blood sugar levels and promoting overall health.
A registered dietitian nutritionist will teach patients how to read food labels and identify healthy choices, as well as how to count the grams of carbohydrates in every meal.
Tasty and healthy meals
People with diabetes often delay seeking guidance from registered dietitians because they fear being told to stop eating certain foods. In reality, though, a registered dietitian takes a different approach. They work together with you to incorporate as many of your favorite foods into your eating plan as possible while still ensuring that your blood sugar levels remain within a healthy range.
Instead of perceiving a registered dietitian as the "food police," think of them as a supportive collaborator who aims to make your diabetes journey as healthy and enjoyable as possible.
How to Find a Reliable Diabetes Quiz
As with any serious disease, a formal assessment by a licensed medical professional is the only true way to obtain an official diagnosis. Still, with the growing quality of online resources, individuals who suspect they may have diabetes may find enormous value in certain self-testing options.
While these quizzes are no replacement for formal medical tests, they generally use simple questions about your lifestyle, symptoms, age, and family history to better gauge whether an appointment with your physician is prudent. When choosing such a test, however, certain steps are necessary to ensure you get the most out of your experience.
Verify the Test's Credibility
With a condition as serious as diabetes or prediabetes, you should only trust the most credible and respected sources. Try to find a test that matches the guidelines and information set forth by organizations such as the American Diabetes Association or the CDC. Additionally, make sure that your chosen test has no third-party ties that might bias your results or treatment advice.
Follow the Instructions
Properly diagnosing diabetes can sometimes be complicated, and online questionnaires may have specific methods for answering to ensure the highest degree of accuracy. Before you begin, make sure you fully understand your chosen quiz and how to take it.
Although your test will likely only ask simple questions about your lifestyle, health circumstances, and family history, it's best to compile any necessary information before beginning the testing process. If you're unsure whether other family members have had certain conditions, take the time to call and ask so that you can properly answer when those questions arise.
Consider Your Results
Remember that even the best self-administered assessment is only the beginning of your journey toward a diagnosis. In that light, take your test results seriously, but not as a final verdict on the subject. Although they may ultimately lead you to a formal diabetes diagnosis, they are only a tool to help you take the next steps in the process.
Potential Outcomes of Diabetes Testing
Once you've finished your quiz, one of three situations may arise. These are:
If the results of your test strongly indicate that your symptoms may be due to an undiagnosed case of diabetes, your next step should be to schedule an appointment with your primary doctor to discuss your results and plan a formal diagnosis. Often, this diagnosis will involve checking your fasting blood sugar levels and other health markers.
It is entirely possible that a self-assessment may tentatively rule out diabetes as the source of your symptoms. This, however, is not an invalidation of those symptoms. Even if your health struggles are not the result of undiagnosed diabetes, they are still real and deserving of intervention. Consider reaching out to your physician to discuss other potential sources of your symptoms.
Further Testing Required
Sometimes, a test will determine that there is not sufficient evidence to provide an answer one way or another. In these instances, seeking licensed medical advice is your best course of action. When you do so, remember to bring your self-assessment results to the appointment to help inform your doctor and better facilitate a proper diagnosis.
The Bottom Line on Getting Tested
On top of the physical symptoms you may be experiencing, the mental and emotional stress of not knowing why you feel the way you do can be immense. Because of this, getting properly diagnosed with diabetes can provide profound relief and peace of mind, in addition to laying the groundwork for medical treatment. By taking a credible self-assessment and meeting with your doctor or a diabetes nutritionist, you're equipping yourself with the information and perspective you need to begin changing your life for the better.