It is also estimated that, in the United States alone, there may be as many as eight million people living with diabetes that are currently undiagnosed. This could be because many people don’t understand or ignore the signs of diabetes.
Early Warning Signs of Diabetes
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor. This is especially true if you are noticing several symptoms at once or if diabetes runs in your family. People with undiagnosed type 1 or type 2 diabetes can have any or all of these symptoms:
- Increased frequency of urination – As diabetes develops, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. This causes the kidneys to work harder to remove the glucose by dumping it into the urine, resulting in frequent trips to the bathroom. This danger sign is one of the most important because many diabetics have issues with kidney function.
- Increased thirst – Because of the increase in urine production, it takes more fluids to keep the body hydrated, resulting in a constant feeling of thirst and dryness.
- Increased appetite – In diabetics, the body does not process insulin correctly. Higher levels of insulin in the body can trick your brain into thinking it is hungry when it is not.
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss – Often, the increase in urination will cause the body to lose fluids, resulting in loss of what is commonly referred to as “water weight.” According to Kimberly Buss, M.D., M.P.H., Diabetes Specialist from the Sutter Medical Foundation, “ Some other causes of involuntary weight loss can include lack of food absorption and chronic diarrhea, endocrine disorders that cause the body to burn more energy (like hyperthyroidism), and uncontrolled diabetes, which cause the body to lose excess calories by spilling sugar into the urine.2”
- Frequent yeast infections – Extra sugar in the bloodstream can cause bad bacteria to have a field day with the body. Yeast, which resides naturally in the body in low concentrations, flourishes with increased sugar levels, causing frequent infections. Men and women may experience yeast infections in the genital and groin area and other moist, warm areas like the arm pits.
- Cuts and scratches taking longer to heal – Higher glucose levels in the blood can damage the circulatory system. This can cause cuts, scratches and bruises to take longer to heal than usual, especially on the hands and feet.
- Foot and hand pain and/or numbness – High glucose levels can damage the nervous system, so a diabetic may notice numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. This can feel like your limbs are “falling asleep” more often than usual.
- Fatigue, even when well rested – A diabetic’s body stores glucose incorrectly, which delivers less energy to the cells, causing chronic fatigue.
- Itchy, dry skin – Dehydration is a factor in dry skin for diabetics, and it can also be caused by a lack of proper blood circulation in the body.
- Changes in mood, increased irritability – Because of lower blood sugar, people with diabetes can often become tired and cranky for no particular reason. As with chronic fatigue, less energy is detrimental to the body’s wellbeing.
- Sudden changes in vision – Although one of the long-term effects of diabetes is glaucoma, those who are undiagnosed can experience blurry vision early on. This is caused by the blood vessels in the eyes constricting. This symptom can go away as the glucose levels in the blood return to normal.
Diabetes is a serious illness that affects millions, yet many remain undiagnosed. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical advice right away. A simple blood test can determine if diabetes is present and you can work with your doctor on ways to balance your blood glucose levels.
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1The International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes Atlas,6thEdition. 2014. Accessed 14 April 2015. http://www.idf.org/diabetesatlas/update-2014.
2Buss, Kimberly. “Is Sudden Weight Loss a Sign of Diabetes?” My Lifestages.org. 8 Mar. 2013. Accessed 15 Jan. 2015. https://www.mylifestages.org/asktheexpert/QuestionAnswer.page?questionid=145.