Knowing Warning Signs For Diabetes

One night last week, my 7-year-old son woke up six times to use the restroom. He went again before we headed out the door, and then desperately needed to go during the car ride to school.

At first I didn’t think much of it, except that he sure had to pee a lot. But then I decided to call our pediatrician just to be sure it wasn’t anything to be of concern. Well, the doctor wanted to see him that day to test him for diabetes. I didn’t even know that was a sign of diabetes! Fortunately, he tested negative, but I’m so happy I called.

“That’s a big, classic symptom,” says Jane Kadohiro, diabetes care and education consultant. “Some of the other symptoms that are somewhat related are being extra thirsty, and if you’re extra thirsty, sometimes you blame that on, well, it’s so hot outside and I exercise a lot. And if you’re drinking more fluids, then you’re going to go to the bathroom more often, so you sort of don’t pay attention to that. Also, being extra tired is one of the other symptoms, and of course we’re all tired.

“With type 2 diabetes, we’ll find people who’ve had cuts or scratches that won’t heal very well is a huge symptom. And blurred vision because the increasing blood sugar can change the contour of eyes, so we don’t focus as well. Those are some of the classic symptoms that easily can be ignored.”

In an effort to raise awareness and funds for diabetes research and educational programs, American Diabetes Association hosts the 75th Step Out: Walk To Stop Diabetes Saturday, March 21, 9 a.m., at Kapiolani Park.

About 2,000 participants are expected at the event, which includes a 2.3mile walk, followed by refreshments and live entertainment, as well as keiki activities and a health fair. Registration begins at 7 a.m., or sign up at

According to American Diabetes Association and Centers for Disease Control, recent estimates project that as many as one in three Americans will have type 2 diabetes by 2050 unless we take steps to stop diabetes. In Hawaii, they say it’s closer to one in two, because of our high-risk populations: Native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Japanese and Chinese ethnicities.

“Diabetes is a problem with the body not handling what we’re eating properly,” explains Kadohiro. “Most people have type 2 diabetes, which is the type where the insulin is not working enough to store food properly, and for that it has largely to do with maybe being overweight. It’s also hereditary. So eating lots of not-healthy foods — high-fat, high-sugar, high-carb — and not getting enough exercise, along with ongoing stress in a person’s life can lead to diabetes and is a huge risk for type 2. Type 1 is the kind of diabetes that only about 5 percent of our population has — that is, your body is just not making enough insulin or no insulin.”

Diabetes can develop at any age, but Kadohiro says type 2 is more likely to happen in the adult years, while type 1 usually occurs in young children and even can start in infancy.

Kadohiro herself has been living with type 1 diabetes for the past 60 years.

“I was 8 when I was diagnosed, and one of the symptoms for particularly type 1 is unexplained weight loss,” she explains. “I had lost quite a bit of weight during the summer, and my parents took me into my pediatrician and they missed the diagnosis. They said she has anemia or something. A week later, I was in a coma for almost a week. I know I’m very fortunate not only to have lived this long, but to have even survived in the beginning.

“It’s very important to be aware of the signs because the earlier we can catch it and get it treated and controlled, the more likely we are to have a very long and productive, healthy life.”