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Did You Know, Diabetes Can Be Silent?

“Diabetes. Learn the signs.”

“Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes?”

“Take this quiz to see your risk factors for type 2 diabetes.”

These are some of the headlines we read. These headlines tell us diabetes is obvious. We all know there are risk factors for many diseases, including diabetes. But what if you don't have the ‘typical’ risk factors? Or what if you don’t have any risk factors? Diabetes can be, and often is more than we think, silent.

A surprising diagnosis

Lately, I've been reading a lot of comments from people who were blindsided by their diabetes diagnosis because their diabetes was silent. Mine was more obvious. In a small way, I guess I was somewhat shocked at my own diagnosis. That shock wasn’t when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life, but when I was pregnant with gestational diabetes. Even though I had no family history of diabetes that I was aware of, it was pretty clear my diabetes was caused by the stress the pregnancy was having on my body.

What surprised me as I look back was that gestational diabetes showed up in my second pregnancy, not my first. Imagine the shock, then worry about the baby when your first pregnancy was uneventful. My weight had not changed between pregnancies. I was assured that once the pregnancy was done, I was likely good for life; I was told diabetes was created by the pregnancy and once I delivered my baby, I didn’t have to worry. As time went on and I read more research, I found out, that wasn't quite accurate. So when I received the diagnosis of type 2, I wasn't really surprised. I knew it could happen. There was a surprise but no silence in my case.

What is a silent diabetes diagnosis?

Now imagine diabetes coming into your life without warning. Imagine being blindsided by a diagnosis of diabetes. This is the reality for many people. Diabetes can be silent. For some, diabetes was not predictable or explainable. It was a surprise; no, a shock. The risk factors may have been very low in the first place. There may have been no family history of type 2. The person may have been someone who is a healthy weight for their height. Someone who paid attention to eating properly and exercising regularly. Then they find out they have little control because there’s not much you can change because you were already living a healthy lifestyle. I often wonder if these folks are truly living with type 2...or will they find out later they, in fact, have type 1 or LADA.

When a diabetes diagnosis doesn't show up alone

Then, there are those who experience a health crisis that leaves them with diabetes on top of the reason for the crisis. Imagine the shock of being admitted to the hospital very ill and recovering with now two health issues to deal with: the reason for the admission and diabetes. Imagine having a heart attack, finding out you need heart surgery and being told you were diabetic at the same time. There is a connection to diabetes but no early warning signs. Now imagine being very ill and the result of that illness leaves you with diabetes. You are going home with a lot more to cope with than you were initially aware of. All of this without ever thinking of the effect on mental health. That’s a whole different issue.

I think we forget there are folks that had no idea they would be given a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes because there was no obvious connection to diabetes. Diabetes was silent in their lives until it wasn't. At least I knew that with any pregnancy, diabetes could happen. At least I knew I could then eventually be living with type 2 after gestational diabetes. I can’t imagine how I’d cope if diabetes blindsided me.

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