If you have reason to believe that you might have high blood glucose (sugar) levels, you will want to learn about signs and symptoms of diabetes. Do not put it off, as procrastination can cost you your health, or even your life. Early symptoms of diabetes often go unnoticed.
Feeling chronically fatigued, frequently urinating, always thirsty, that wound on your foot that won’t heal… Many times we just tell ourselves that we are stressed, overworked, or these things happen with age. All of these factors may be true, but be advised that these are also common symptoms of diabetes.
If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you might want to get your blood sugar checked, especially if you have a family history of diabetes.
It is very important to inform yourself about the signs and symptoms of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), over 34 million people have diabetes in the United States, and 1.5 million Americans die every year as a result.
Symptoms of diabetes will vary from person to person. Any diabetic, including a new diabetic may experience multiple symptoms at the same time. It is extremely important to address your symptoms right away. Early detection may prevent serious consequences.
Symptoms May Include:
Blurred vision is a common symptom in people who have hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugars)) over a long period of time. Eventually, fluid from the body is pulled into the lens, causing it to swell and distort vision.
Once blood glucose levels are better controlled, it will take about six weeks for the swelling to go away, and your vision to clear. Be advised that you should not get new glasses during this time. With improved blood glucose control, your vision will return to baseline.
This is a very important reason why all people with diabetes should get an annual, dilated eye exam. Your ophthalmologist will be able to see diabetic changes in your eyes.
Too much sugar in your blood forces your kidneys to work harder. The kidneys process the sugar in your blood, but when your kidneys are not working to their full potential, glucose will be eliminated in your urine.
Many times, frequent urination goes unnoticed. If your urgency tends to happen during your sleeping hours, that is the key indicator.
When the kidneys are eliminating sugar through the urine, hydrating fluids are drained from your tissues. This will leave a person feeling thirsty and/or experience dry mouth or dehydration.
When blood glucose levels remain abnormally high (hyperglycemia), the glucose cannot get into the cells due to lack of insulin or insulin resistance. Your body’s cells are not able to convert the food you eat into energy. This loss of energy causes increased appetite.
Fatigue can be caused by a number of factors. Usually, the diabetic is lacking insulin or has insulin resistance. This makes it difficult for the glucose to get into the cells for energy .
High blood sugars can weaken your immune system (your body‘s defense system). Over time, most diabetics will develop peripheral neuropathy, which leads to decreased blood flow to the extremities. For these reasons, a person with diabetes is at a higher risk of developing infections, especially if blood glucose levels remain elevated.
Nausea and Vomiting
People with chronically elevated blood sugars are at a greater risk of developing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). As a result, diabetics may experience nausea or vomiting, accompanied by pain in the abdominal region.
Numbness and Tingling
People with diabetes can develop diabetic neuropathy, which presents in the form of numbness and tingling, or pins and needles. Another symptom is a sharp burning pain, called diabetic nerve pain.
(Men) Getting or Maintaining an Erection
As previously mentioned, elevated blood sugars can damage the small blood vessels in the body, including those located in the penis. This can make it difficult for men to get or maintain an erection. See my article the symptoms of diabetes in men here for more information.
Additional Co-Morbidities of Diabetes
If you have diabetes and do not take care of yourself with proper diet and exercise, additional problems will arise, such as the following:
High blood sugars damage the vessels in the kidneys. When the blood vessels are damaged, the kidneys do not work as well. People with diabetes often have high blood pressure, which damages the kidneys, as well.
High Blood Pressure
Over time, diabetes damages the small blood vessels in your body which causes the walls of a vessel to stiffen. This increases pressure, which leads to high blood pressure.
Damage to blood vessels and damage to nerves in the body will affect the heart. High blood pressure raises the force of blood flow, damaging additional vessels and arteries.
Risk Factors of Diabetes
Some people have a genetic disposition to develop diabetes, and some races are also at higher risk. African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans are at higher risk than Caucasians, according to information obtained by the ADA in November 2018.
A person’s lifestyle can also increase the risk for developing diabetes. Smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and poor eating habits contribute to the potential onset of diabetes or prediabetes.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about our genetics or our race, but the additional factors listed are factors that you can change:
If you are a smoker, find a smoking cessation program. Are you obese or overweight? Initiate a walking schedule or activity program to your liking with the approval of your physician. Eating processed foods, and avoiding fruits and vegetables? Try adding different fruits and vegetables into your diet on a daily basis. If you are a woman who has had gestational diabetes (GDM), your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is greater.
Even if you have a genetic disposition, or you are at a higher risk due to race, you can still adopt these tips to help prevent or prolong a diagnosis of diabetes.
Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2017, according to data obtained by the ADA. Diabetes was listed as the cause of death on a total of 270,702 death certificates. It is believed that diabetes was under-reported in 60% – 65% of cases. Only 10% – 15% of these deaths had diabetes listed as an underlying cause.
On November 24, 2001, the Diabetes Care Journal published an article by James P. Boyle, PHD, et al, “Projection Of Diabetes Burden Through 2050.” At that time, the team of physicians found that “If trends in the prevalence of diabetes continue, cases are projected to increase by 165%.” Fortunately, advances in medications and technology have benefited many.
The Cost of Diabetes
Many diverse complications can devastate the quality of life for people with diabetes. The cost of diabetes burden is essential for policymakers to plan future needs and costs. Diabetes cost the US more than $174 billion in 2007. The estimated total cost in 2017 was $327 billion (American Diabetes Association).
There are seven major macronutrients in the human body, three of which are major food macronutrients. These include carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. When we consume carbohydrates, they break down to glucose and enter the bloodstream.
1 g of carbohydrate increases the blood glucose by 3 to 4 mg/dL.
In a non-diabetic body, the functioning pancreas secretes the hormone, insulin. Insulin can be described as the “key” that “unlocks” our cells to allow glucose to enter. (Brain cells, muscle cells, etc. all require glucose for energy.)
Types of Diabetes
There are several types of diabetes, which include the following:
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2D)
A serious medical condition in which the individual does not produce enough insulin, or is resistant to available insulin in the body.
It is managed through lifestyle changes, diet, exercise, oral medications, non-insulin injections, and/or insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1D)
Formally recognized as juvenile diabetes, is a form of diabetes in which little or no insulin is produced by the body. T1D is identified when an autoimmune destruction of the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas occurs. Type 1 diabetes can be distinguished from type 2 by the presence of autoantibodies.
A condition where blood glucose results are high, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.
Blood glucose results range between 100-125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Type 1.5 Diabetes
Also called latent autoimmune diabetes in Adults, or LADA,
LADA happens when your body makes antibodies that cause your immune system (defense system) to attack insulin-making cells in the pancreas.
Maturity-Onset Diabetes in the Young (MODY)
MODY is an inherited form of diabetes, which is detected through genetic testing.
MODY occurs due to a mutation in one of 11 genes. Thus, there are 11 different types of MODY. It is more likely to affect adolescents and young people, but it can occur at any age.
Both LADA (Type 1.5) and MODY share features of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but they also have their own unique features.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes mellitus that occurs during pregnancy. GDM is usually diagnosed between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Elevated blood sugars during pregnancy can be harmful to both you and your baby.
Type 4 Diabetes
This is the term used to describe insulin resistance associated with age in the lean and elderly population.
As you can see, being aware of the symptoms of diabetes can help you find an early diagnosis. Pre-diabetes can be reversed. Early detection will lead to early management. It could save your life.