Primary Symptoms of Diabetes
From what to eat, how to exercise, latest treatments, and case statistics, diabetes seems to be constantly in the news. That‘s not surprising as highlights from the Centers for Disease Control 2020 report state that just over 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and approximately 1 in 3 have prediabetes. If you do not have diabetes you may begin to wonder what the primary symptoms of diabetes are and if you are at risk.
The good news from the CDC report is that adult-onset diabetes cases have significantly decreased over the past ten years and even if you find you do have diabetes, it is treatable and you can still live the life you want. The first step to treating and managing diabetes is to know you have diabetes. We’ll go over the top symptoms of diabetes to give you a place to start a discussion with your doctor who can do an A1C blood glucose test to confirm or alleviate your suspicions.
Warning Signs of Diabetes
The signs of diabetes can be subtle. For those with type 1, the onset of symptoms can be sudden, while those with type 2 diabetes have symptoms that appear gradually or possibly not at all.
The symptoms that could indicate diabetes are:
- Dry Skin
- Excessive hunger
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- More frequent infections, like urinary tract or yeast infections
- Sores take longer to heal
- Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
- Blurry vision
It’s one thing to know the symptoms, but understanding why they occur builds an awareness of how diabetes impacts your body and how
you can help ease the problems. We offer brief explanations, but your doctor can share more and direct you to further reading.
Excess glucose is the main culprit for many of these diabetes symptoms. With more sugar in your blood, your kidneys become unable to filter it all and your body begins to pull fluids from its cells so it can produce enough urine to remove the sugar. With excess urine, you have to urinate more often, which in turn can increase your thirst. As your body pulls fluid from its cells it makes your skin very dry while the excess sugars in your urine can make you more susceptible to urinary tract and yeast infections, as well as gum and skin infections.
The insatiable hunger you may feel occurs because your cells can’t absorb the glucose your body produces leaving your body searching for more food and making you feel hungry. And because glucose gives your cells energy, when glucose is missing you feel less energetic and more fatigued.
Your circulatory system that pushes blood throughout your body can be impacted by high blood sugar and cause different symptoms of diabetes to appear as well. High glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels making it more difficult for blood to circulate. Cold, numb, or tingling hands and feet can be a sign of poor circulation. Another sign may be sores that are slow to heal because the healing process takes a steady supply of blood to work. A less common symptom is blurred vision that can occur when high blood sugar levels impact the blood vessels in your eyes and allow fluid to seep into the lens of the eye.
A symptom of diabetes that is not as common and only affects men is erectile dysfunction or ED. While ED is common in older men, with or without diabetes, diabetes can cause ED. High
blood sugar can damage the nerves and blood vessels that are needed for an erection, and men with diabetes are more likely to have low testosterone levels which can also cause ED. The good news is that ED is often treatable so if you or a loved one are experiencing sexual issues caused by diabetes, discuss your options with your doctor.
Many of these symptoms can be from diabetes, but they can also have other causes. If you are experiencing any of these issues, discuss them with your doctor. Ignoring the symptoms of diabetes can have devastating impacts to your health.
Complications of Diabetes
If left untreated, diabetes can cause many health complications. The American Diabetes Association emphasizes that the number one cause of death in people living with diabetes is cardiovascular disease. People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or stroke. However, exercise, diet, and regular blood testing can significantly reduce the risk. To stay on top of your heart health ADA suggests at every visit to your doctor you:
- Check your blood pressure
- Talk about your blood glucose meter readings. Take along your meter/logbook
- Check your weight and talk about ways to reach a healthy weight
- Talk about what you eat
- Discuss any lifestyle, work, or emotional changes
- Discuss your physical activity
- If you smoke, talk about ways to quit
- Remove shoes and socks to have your feet checked
- Talk about all the medicine you take, including over-the-counter pills, herbs, vitamins, and other supplements
- Ask if you should take aspirin to lower your chances of having a heart attack
- Ask any remaining questions you have about your diabetes care
Kidney disease can also be a complication from diabetes. When blood glucose levels are high the kidneys get overworked as they filter too much blood. Over time they can start to lose their filtering ability, leak and lose protein into the urine. Without that filter, waste products build up in your blood eventually causing kidney failure. Kidney disease is not something everyone with diabetes will get as it is influenced by genetics, and also by how well you control your blood glucose and blood pressure.
Another potential complication from diabetes is diabetic ketoacidosis which can lead to a diabetic coma or even death. Without enough insulin in glucose, your body turns to burning fat for energy, a process that produces the chemical ketones. As ketones build in the blood they become acidic and can poison your body. Paying attention to diabetes warning signs, and checking your blood and urine frequently can go a long way in preventing this disease.
Neuropathy is a diabetes complication that occurs most frequently in those who have had diabetes for some time. It causes nerve damage with different types of neuropathy causing damage in different parts of the body. The most common is peripheral neuropathy that appears as cold, tingling, or numbness in the hands and feet that if prolonged can lead to a loss of feeling as well as skin problems. The feet are where the problem usually appears. Think about it, if you can’t feel your feet, you run the risk of further injuring them so taking special care of your feet when you have diabetes is important.
The symptoms and potential complications from diabetes sound scary and you should be aware of them and of your risk. However, if you have diabetes, it does not mean you will have symptoms and complications. Diabetes can be managed through regular blood testing (we recommend doing this pain-free with Genteel’s Lancing Device), medicine when needed, and adopting a healthy lifestyle with good food and exercise. Diabetes can be life-changing but it doesn’t mean you can’t live the life you always wanted.