More than 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes, a condition that occurs when the body produces too much or too little blood sugar, or glucose. 84 million Americans additionally live with prediabetes, or the signs of future diabetes.
An estimated 14 million people are unaware theyâ€™re living with diabetes. That means millions of people are not receiving treatment for this condition.
The dangers of untreated diabetes are massive.
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels may cause nerve damage, kidney damage, heart disease, and even vision loss, among other concerning issues. Knowing the signs and symptoms of diabetes allows earlier diagnosis, in turn creating better treatment options and quality of life for affected individuals.
How can you spot diabetes?
While diabetes won't be exactly the same for everyone, there are some common tell-tale signs that something is amiss. So, if any of the following ten signs affect you, it may be time to talk to a doctor.
What is one of the first potential signs of diabetes?
It involves lots and lots of bathroom breaks...
10. Frequent Urination
Frequent urination is one of the most common diabetes symptoms, as well as one that can appear fairly early.
How much more will you urinate?
The average person uses the bathroom four to seven times per day. Those who use the bathroom more often should consider the possibility that the cause of frequent urination is diabetes, especially when other symptoms are also present.
Frequent urination, medically known as polyuria, is defined as urinating more than 2.5 liters per day. Itâ€™s most common during the night but can occur at any time. Since people affected by polyuria oftentimes wake during the middle of the night to use the bathroom, sleep can easily become disrupted as well. Since sleep is crucial for recovery and restoration, this symptom needs to be taken seriously.
Why does diabetes cause frequent urination?
Excess glucose builds in the blood when a person has diabetes. This buildup causes the kidneys to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess glucose. Since the kidneys often cannot keep up, they excrete the excess glucose through urineâ€”hence the increased need to take bathroom breaks.
Increased urination also often means increased thirst & dry mouth.
Importantly, people with increased urination often experience increased thirst and dry mouth as well. Itâ€™s a catch-22. More urination equals increased thirst. Increased fluid intake naturally causes increased urination.
All in all, it's a viscousâ€”and downright uncomfortableâ€”self-serving cycle.
If you experience dry mouth despite drinking fluids and constant urination, consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor to discuss the possibility of diabetes.
What if you're not extra thirsty, but extra hungry?
Of course, increased urination and thirst aren't the only common symptoms of this condition. In fact, if you keep reaching for snacks but your waistband is somehow looser, it might be time to schedule a doctor's appointment...
9. Increased Hunger & Potential Weight Loss
Polyphagia, or increased hunger, is another common prediabetes symptom.
Why does diabetes make you hungry?
It all starts with glucose, which the body uses to feed cells. When this system is disrupted, the cells are unable to absorb blood sugar. This inability means the body has to constantly look for alternative sources of energy. Its next go-to source of fuel? Food. So, the body ups your appetite in the hopes of getting the energy it needs to function.
Eating lots but not noticing any weight gain?
Despite eating more food, people with diabetes often notice they lose weight. This loss is caused by the sheer amount of glucose excreted in your urine. In fact, unexplained weight loss with no other symptoms may itself be one of the single clearest signs of diabetes.
You gained weight; that means you don't have diabetes, right?
Not necessarily. Don't assume that weight loss is a requirement for a diabetes diagnosis; some people gain weight from this condition.
Is it diabetes or something else?
Overeating has numerous other causes. Stress and depression, for example, are two health conditions that may cause increased hunger and appetite. If you experience increased hunger now and again, it's probably not a cause for concern. Everyone eats more from time to time, after all; this fact is especially true after strenuous activities like exercise.
Increased hunger is a problem, though when it's a frequent occurrence, especially when combined with other signs of diabetes.
The odds of diabetes increase when hunger is paired with other common symptoms.
The next common symptom of diabetes? It'll make it harder to see the other signsâ€”literally...
8. Blurred Vision
Blurred vision may be a sign of an eye-specific problem. It is oftentimes an indicator of eyestrain, which occurs in many situations, such as after youâ€™ve spent hours online. However, diabetes may also cause blurred vision. When diabetes is the cause, blurred vision is usually a temporary problem that develops quickly.
So, why does diabetes cause vision problems?
Blurred vision is the result of sudden increases in blood sugar levels. Now, there are tiny blood vessels in the eyes. When there is excess blood sugar in the body, those blood vessels are affected. As a result, fluid may seep from the vessels into the eye lens, leading to blurred vision.
Since most problems with blurred vision quickly resolve on their own, itâ€™s a symptom oftentimes ignored. If you experience blurred vision on more than one occasion, however, it never hurts to visit the doctor just to be safe.
The potential complications are devastating.
Prolonged high blood sugar levels are dangerous. You certainly do not want to regret the decision to ignore blurred vision and experience further complications down the line. These complications can be quite serious. In fact, blindness is a potential result of untreated blurred vision caused by diabetes.
Are there any symptoms you can't miss?
Even if eyesight worsens, this next symptom is hard to miss...
7. Dark Patches of Skin
Dark patches of skin on the back of the neck, under the armpits, groin, or other areas of the body are oftentimes indicators of diabetes. To be clear, these patches may be the symptoms of other health concerns. However, itâ€™s almost always the first sign that alerts a person to the potential risk of diabetes.
How does diabetes cause this symptom?
This problem occurs when there is excess insulin in the blood. It is most common among people with type 2 diabetes, although it can be a symptom of other types of diabetes as well.
What do these patches look & feel like?
Medically known as acanthosis nigricans, dark patches of skin are usually dry and velvety in texture. Small, reddish-brown bumps may also appear on or near the affected area.
Hard, thickening skin may also occur. Itâ€™s common on the fingers, toes, or both, as well as other areas of the body such as the neck, feet, or legs. Itâ€™s especially common in untreated diabetes thatâ€™s not been managed for many years.
What about other consequences of long-term, untreated diabetes?
Hardening skin is no fun. Unfortunately, it isn't all that results from long-term lack of diabetes treatment...
6. Slow-Healing Cuts and Sores
Slow-healing cuts and sores are other diabetes signs that people often ignore because they seem unimportant.
When do these symptoms appear?
These problems most often occur after later, after long-term lack of treatment. That being said, it's not impossible for these issues to occur early on, either.
How does it all happen?
Slow-healing cuts and sores occur as results of poor blood circulation. Specifically, blood that needs to reach the skin to heal cuts and sores cannot do so as quickly, reducing healing time.
How slow? And why is this symptom a big deal?
Slow-healing cuts and sores caused by diabetes may take weeks or months to heal. This period leaves the afflicted individual susceptible to numerous skin conditions, including bacterial and fungal infections.
It seems like diabetes only affects your physical health... right?
Incorrect. Mental health issues are common in diabetic patients. The following sign is particularly common for those with diabetes...
5. Mood Swings
Many people do not realize that diabetes causes not only physical symptoms but mental symptoms as well. In fact, diabetes patients oftentimes face a plethora of mental health issues, with mood swings being one of the most common. While itâ€™s true that mood swings have many causes, there is cause for concern when it is paired with other diabetes signs.
How does diabetes affect your mood?
Diabetic mood swings are the result of unchecked blood sugar levels. Specifically, when blood sugar levels spike, anxiety may occur. Conversely, when blood sugar levels decline, depression or irritability may occur. These mood changes occur rapidly and with little notice and may last for short or long time periods. In fact, some people experience mood swings for weeks at a time. When blood glucose levels return to normal, most peopleâ€™s mood swings also subside.
When diabetes affects more than just the diagnosed individual...
This symptom of diabetes affects the individual as well as family, friends, and others closest to the person, making it one of the most devastating signs of this condition.
Diabetes is exhausting.
That statement isn't just figurative. Diabetes can literally make you feel exhausted 24/7...
Fatigue is something everyone experiences from time to time. Maybe you put in extra hours at work or planned many activities that tuckered you out. Whatever the cause, fatigue shouldnâ€™t surprise you after a strenuous day or week.
Why does diabetes cause fatigue?
Unexplained fatigue that never seems to go away, however, is a cause for concern. Diabetes is one of several conditions that may cause a person to feel tired all of the time. Diabetes specifically causes fatigue due to fluctuating blood sugar levels in the pancreas. Complications associated with diabetes can also cause a person to feel fatigued.
Being tired is not the same as being fatigued.
Keep in mind that being tired is much different than being fatigued. If you sleep and wake up refreshed and re-energized, you are probably just tired. If you don't wake up refreshed, then fatigue is most likely the culprit.
Is it diabetes or something else?
A few lifestyle changes usually help a person who is fatigued due to diabetes. If these lifestyle changes don't improve the sense of fatigue, it may be time to see a doctor.
Are those your spider senses tingling?
If you notice a tingling sensation, it might not be from your spidey senses. In fact, tingling, numbing, or even some pain in the hands or feet means you're more likely to have diabetes than be the next web-slinging superhero...
3. Diabetic Neuropathy: Tingling, Numbness, and/or Pain in the Extremities
Diabetic neuropathy, which typically happens years after someone develops diabetes, makes it difficult to handle daily living tasks, work, or enjoy life as youâ€™d like. It most often occurs in type 2 diabetics.
What does diabetic neuropathy feel like?
Tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet is common. Many people who experience these sensations also complain of other symptoms, including pain, trouble holding items, and difficulty walking, as well as a host of additional problems.
If you experience this problem, schedule that doctor's appointment and learn exactly what's causing you trouble. Your doctor can not only properly diagnose the cause of pain and concern, but also recommend the best course of treatment for your specific needs.
Are there specific treatments for diabetic neuropathy?
Diet, medications, and exercise are the most common treatments for diabetic neuropathy.
You're not tingling or numb, but rather itchy. That means you don't have diabetes, right?
2. Itchy Skin
Itchy skin is another one of those diabetes symptoms that has numerous other culprits, so most people never associate it with this condition.
Is it diabetes or something else?
A sign that your dry skin issue is more problematic than you may realize? It doesn't clear up when the weather changes or after you slather on lotion (two of the most common causes of itchy skin).
What does itchy skin caused by diabetes feel like?
Itchy skin can be the result of dry skin, yeast or fungal infection, or diabetes. Localized itchy skin, though, is most problematic for diabetes sufferers. If you notice itchy skin more frequently on one area of the body than the next, it could be a cause for concern. Most often, itchy skin occurs on the bottom portion of the leg.
How can you get relief for itchy skin caused by diabetes?
Fortunately, lotion designed specifically to treat dry skin associated with diabetes is available from a doctor and even over the counter at most drug stores.
Your itching is "down south."
Having issues with not external, but internal itchiness? It could be yet another sign that diabetes is at play...
1. Yeast Infections
People with diabetes are at increased risk of recurrent yeast infections. Importantly, yeast thrives in and on warm, moist areas of the body and may affect a person of any age. The genitals, armpits, and mouth are the most common areas to develop a yeast infection since they're among the moistest areas of the body.
How does diabetes lead to yeast infections?
Uncontrolled diabetes oftentimes leads to an increase in the body's yeast production. And when there is too much yeast, there is a problem. A very itchy, uncomfortable problem.
Is it diabetes or something else?
Like most other diabetes symptoms, yeast infections have many causes. When a person experiences recurrent infections along with other diabetes symptoms, though, this condition is most likely the cause.
Only women can get yeast infections, right?
This symptom isn't exclusive to a single gender. Think men cannot develop yeast infections? Think again. This notion is purely a myth, as this condition affects anyone whose skin/body offers the right environment.
You think you might have diabetes.
Keep Diabetes in Check: Know the Signs and Symptoms
Diabetes affects millions of people across the world every single day. Itâ€™s important that youâ€™re aware of the signs of diabetes in order to protect yourself against the condition. After all, early detection leads to early treatment, which prevents many health problems that youâ€™d otherwise experience.
The key to reducing severe complications.
Keeping blood sugar levels under control is key to reducing many risks and complications. Proper glucose levels vary depending upon the age of the person and time of the day. Typical blood glucose levels range from 4.0 mmol/L to 7.8 mmol/L, though.
You are important. Don't ignore potential signs.
Donâ€™t ignore the signs and the opportunity to protect yourself. If you suspect that diabetes is affecting your life, schedule that doctor's appointment right away. Knowledge is power!