Sugar in Urine: Could I Have Diabetes?
Finding sugar in urine samples is one of the primary symptoms to necessitate testing for diabetes. Although diabetes may not necessarily be the reason why there is sugar in your urine, it is usually the primary concern when this symptom arises. The technical name for sugar in urine is ‘glycosuria’ and it is usually found in accompaniment with sugar, or glucose, in the blood. The presence of glucose in urine is often a sign of uncontrolled or, more likely, undiagnosed diabetes.
If you don’t know much about this condition then you might be wondering exactly how diabetes causes the presence of sugar in urine. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, which means that there is an issue in the way the body breaks down the nutrients in food. Normally the pancreas would produce and release a hormone called insulin which triggers various cells in the body, particularly those in the muscles, fatty tissues, and in the liver, to absorb sugar from the blood. This sugar is stored inside these tissues where it becomes glycogen, a long-term energy source that the body feeds off of instead of turning onto stored fat cells.
In a diabetic the pancreas either fails to produce (enough) insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin properly. This results in high blood sugar levels which can be toxic and even deadly to the human body. Sugar in urine is just one of the ways the body will signify that there is an overabundance of sugar roaming around inside. You might be tempted to think, “If the body flushes out excess sugar through the urine, then why is it a big deal?” The problem is that the body cannot flush all of the excess sugar out and it will eventually cause damage to vital organs.
The process is actually a vicious cycle that begins when the body cannot reabsorb the high amounts of sugar rushing around in the blood stream, resulting in the eventual presence of sugar in urine. As the urine is being filtered in the kidneys, the excess glucose literally changes the pressure on an osmotic level which prevents the kidneys from being able to reabsorb water. This is why one of the major signs of diabetes includes excessive urination, as the body simply flushes out any water that is drank as a last-ditch attempt to get rid of the excess glucose—which has now become a harmful toxin. Eventually the majority of the water used by the body will be siphoned from cells all over the body and dehydration will result.
There are three different types of diabetes, each one being a little different with the same basic principles.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is usually called “childhood diabetes” because it is a form of diabetes mellitus that is most often detected in childhood. That being said, type 1 diabetes can be detected at any age, typically, up until the age of 40. This type of diabetes occurs because something triggers the body’s immune system to destroy insulin-producing cells inside the pancreas. With the pancreas being unable to produce insulin, glucose levels in the blood soon rise dangerously high and can become life threatening quite fast. You may have heard this type of diabetes being called “insulin-dependent” diabetes because it requires the injection of insulin several times each day. Insulin usually isn’t enough for a person with type 1 diabetes. Insulin itself helps to store excess sugar to be used as energy but if a person with type 1 diabetes eats a diet high in sugar then it can work against the insulin by feeding more sugar into the body than the insulin alone can handle. Exercise is another important factor with this type of diabetes because physical activity can go a long way in using up the excess sugar that may be in the system. Some of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes include frequent hunger, unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, weight loss despite one’s increased appetite, fatigue, and blurry vision.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes and accounts for over 80 percent of all diabetes cases. This is sometimes called “insulin-resistant diabetes” because the cells in the tissues of muscle, fat, and the liver are unresponsive to the insulin and do not absorb and store glucose. This results in an excessive buildup of glucose in the blood, and then back to the problem of the kidneys being unable to filter all of the sugar from the fluid that will eventually become urine. Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes includes frequently feeling hungry and thirsty, urinating often, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, fuzzy or blurred vision, headaches, unexplained or unplanned weight loss, itchy skin, recurring or persistent infections, and the inability for wounds to heal as efficiently as they should. In a severe case, one might experience seizures and/or fall into a coma. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in individuals who have an unhealthy lifestyle to being with, including being overweight, eating a poor diet (typically high in fat/sugar), and failing to get regular exercise.
Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman is pregnant and can occur anytime throughout the pregnancy. This is part of the reason why so many blood tests have to be done throughout pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is relatively uncommon, occurring in fewer than 5% of all pregnancies. Most pregnant women go through periods when they experience high blood sugar and this is quite common; however there is a point when blood sugar levels can rise too high and remain such for a long period of time—this is when diabetes is suspected. Pregnancy hormones are the likely culprit behind the sudden development of sugar intolerance, but even so, high blood sugar can be dangerous if it goes on for too long. One of the main fears about untreated gestational diabetes is the heightened risk of birth defects and miscarriage. In the later portion of pregnancy, gestational diabetes can cause the baby to grow at an accelerated rate to the point that it is too large to deliver without a c-section. Another risk to the baby includes a severe drop in blood pressure after birth. Gestational diabetes is usually managed by regularly checking blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy diet. Gentle exercise and avoiding activities that can cause high blood pressure are also part of managing this type of diabetes. If these methods of treatment do not keep blood sugar levels within a safe range then it may be necessary to take insulin throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.