The thought of developing diabetes can strike fear in the hearts of most, especially if one is predisposed to the condition due to family history or lifestyle. Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes have different reasons for onset, but both can lead to significant, life-threatening health challenges.
Many people do not realize that the symptoms they are experiencing are signs of diabetes until it’s too late. Knowing the common signs of diabetes development to look for can help people get medical attention for Type-1 diabetes earlier or stave off Type-2 diabetes altogether.
Type-2 diabetes accounts for 85-95% of all diabetes cases, yet many of the symptoms of diabetes onset could be considered “silent” or attributed to something else. Dr. Ahmet Ergin of SugarMDs, stresses the importance of listening to our bodies and noticing what may be subtle changes, “These are important symptoms not to ignore,” Dr. Ergin explains
Excessive thirst and urination
One of the most well-known symptoms of diabetes, both Type-1 and Type-2, is frequent thirst and urination. “Our kidneys can handle only so much blood sugar,” explains Dr. Ergin. “Your kidneys will start to excrete excess blood sugar once your level hits about 180.”
As the body attempts to rid itself of this excess blood sugar via urination, the body starts to become dehydrated. This leads to a vicious circle of urinating and drinking, which is often one of the most blatant signs of the onset of diabetes.
If you run to the bathroom several times in an hour or drink a gallon or more of water a day, your blood sugar may be high. If you are experiencing temporary or permanent insulin resistance, your blood sugar will keep rising unless you have medical intervention.
We all know what it feels like to be “hangry” at times, but extreme hunger can signify something more serious. When your blood sugar averages are running 200 or above, you will start to feel hungry. Your body sends signals to the brain that blood sugar is being wasted. This signal is mistakenly alerting the brain that you need more food. “Insulin resistance is another problem that can cause hunger,” says Dr. Ergin.
If you feel hungry even after eating regular meals or find yourself eating more than usual during the day to quell your hunger, this may be a sign that a doctor should check you out.
The body uses sugar for energy, but when diabetes enters the picture — and the body cannot properly use glucose — energy loss can be significant. “You will be fatigued because your blood sugar is high, but you’re not able to use it,” says Dr. Ergin.
If you feel weak or not rested, your body may not be processing glucose properly even after a good night’s sleep.
Some of the symptoms of diabetes can compound and cause other problems to occur. “If you are dehydrated from diabetes, this is a risk factor for dry skin,” says Dr. Ergin. Dehydration and diabetes-related poor circulation can be a cause of dry skin.
If you are drinking a lot of water and using lotion, and you still find that your skin has lost moisture, this is not something that should be ignored, especially if it is in tandem with other symptoms.
If the average non-diabetic or pre-diabetic cuts themselves, they can typically expect that cut to heal in a few days to a week. However, if your body is experiencing the signs of diabetes, excess blood sugar can disrupt your immune system.
“Due to this, your white blood cells are not going to be as effective,” says Dr. Ergin. This can lead to slow-healing injuries and an increase in skin infections. High blood sugars can be a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to a rise in skin infections and yeast infections.
One may have a short temper when riding the roller coaster of blood sugar ups and downs. No matter what type of diabetes someone may have, the symptoms of the disease can make one feel terrible, especially if it is not managed. The low energy and fatigue that can come with diabetes can also contribute to feelings of depression and anger.
Chest pain/Heart attack
“It is very common for cardiovascular disease to happen to diabetics, even before their diagnosis,” says Dr. Ergin. People can experience a cardiovascular event even if they are very early pre-diabetics. The longer someone has diabetes, the greater their chances for heart disease.
The good news is, especially for Type-2 diabetics, you can reverse your risk of heart disease through weight loss, a healthy diet, exercise, and giving up smoking and drinking. These are all ways to curb Type-2 diabetes’s adverse effects.
Weight loss is one of the major symptoms to look out for, especially with Type-1 diabetics, where it tends to happen rapidly, although it can also happen to patients with Type-2. “When your blood sugars are very high, it stops your pancreas from working,” explains Dr. Ergin. “Your pancreas can understand small changes in blood sugars. If your blood sugars are in the 300s or 400s, it confuses the organ which then starts to shut down.” At that point, you may lose weight because your body is burning fat for energy instead of using glucose.
Diabetes affects roughly 1 in 10 Americans. By learning to recognize the signs, people may be able to combat Type-2 diabetes and get treatment for Type-1 diabetes earlier. A disease reaching epidemic proportions in the US could be better controlled with more education and attention to how our bodies feel.
“It’s our job as doctors to get you under control as soon as possible,” says Dr. Ergin. “Whether you want to call that a cure or remission, we can help. That way, perhaps you don’t have to worry about diabetes affecting your entire life.”