Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes You Can’t Afford to Ignore from Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes You Can’t Afford to Ignore

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Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. More than 29 million people have it. A lot of people don’t have early symptoms, says Ann Doherty, certified diabetes educator and manager at Alta Bates Summit Diabetes Center. About 8 million people are unaware they have it. “It’s a big concern,” she adds. “By the time you go to the doctor, you may already have complications."

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Fatigue

“We eat for energy,” Doherty says. The food goes into the digestive tract and is broken down into smaller molecules of nutrients for the blood to absorb and carry to cells throughout the body. When it doesn’t have the transporter anymore, which is the insulin, the cells don’t get the energy they need and are starving, she adds. “All the sugar is stuck in the blood” and you feel exhausted.

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Thirst

“The body is trying to dilute the sugar in the blood and balance it off,” Doherty says. Constant need to go to the bathroom may mean that your blood sugar is too high. “You lose a lot of the glucose when you urinate, but you also lose good things like electrolytes,” she adds. If untreated, over time hyperglycemia can cause kidney damage and nerve damage.

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Frequent urination

This is a common sign of diabetes, Doherty says. Too much sugar in your blood makes the kidneys work extra hard to filter it out, hence the frequent need to urinate.  

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Increased hunger

Feeling hungry after just finishing a meal may be a sign of diabetes. Highs and lows in blood sugar levels confuse the body and it can develop an urge to eat. This mostly happens in patients with Type 1 Diabetes, Doherty says. Lack of insulin prevents the body's cells from geting enough glucose, which is their energy, making them crave it.

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Weight gain or loss

Weight loss is also more common among people with Type 1 Diabetes, Doherty says. The loss of calories is due to frequent urination. You lose a lot of glucose that way. “The body doesn’t store it and other good stuff properly anymore,” she adds. The sugar is not getting to the cells for storage. When diabetics are given insulin to better control their blood sugar, they retain more of it in their cells and this can lead to weight gain.

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Blurred vision

“The lens of the eye is like a sponge, Doherty says. “It gets saturated when you have high blood sugar levels for a long time.” The extra sugar irritates the blood vessels in the eye and it can cause serious retina damage. It is often reversible but it can take up to a month before your vision clears. Keep in mind that it will fluctuate, she adds. So don’t get new glasses and see an ophthalmologist.

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Wounds taking longer to heal

“This is more of a sign of uncontrolled diabetes,” Doherty says. Chronic high glucose levels cause irritation to the nerves and blood vessels. This leads to decreased blood flow and poor circulation. Veins and arteries don’t effectively transport blood to the wounds so it can repair the damage.

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Numbness in your feet

The irritation to the nerves over time kills them eventually, Doherty says. “You first feel pins, needles and pain. Then it stops hurting and you think that’s a good sign when, in fact, it’s the opposite.” Lack of blood going to organs that are away from the heart can lead to amputation, she adds. Check with your doctor if you are at risk of diabetes and notice redness or blisters in your feet.

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Headaches

This is the result of imbalance of fluids, glucose and electrolytes caused by diabetes, Doherty says. Sometimes one glass of water can help. Headaches, which can be a sign your blood sugar levels are too high, worsen as the condition progresses and is left untreated. They often take several days to develop. 

Dark lines around the neck

The condition is called acanthosis nigricans. “We don’t see this very often anymore,” Doherty says. This is the result of a buildup of glucose in the body over a long period of time, she adds. “It’s basically the garbage left behind.” People nowadays are screened on more regular basis and diabetes is caught earlier, she adds. Properly treating diabetes may restore the skin.

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Frequent infections

“Infections and skin discolorations are much more common now,” Doherty says. Bacteria and fungi thrive in a sugary environment, which is why infections are fairly common. The main pathogenic mechanisms are: Hyperglycemic environment increasing the virulence of some pathogens; lower production of interleukins, which regulate immune responses; reduced chemotaxis and phagocytic activity; gastrointestinal and urinary dysmotility (when the muscles of the digestive system become impaired).

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Dry mouth

A dry mouth can be a sign and also the cause of high blood sugar levels. Lack of saliva, which is a disinfectant, means that your mouth is now a breeding ground for bacteria. There is nothing to wash away the germs.  

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Chest pain

“This can be a sign of a heart problem, Doherty says. The risk increases as blood vessels are irritated and blocked by diabetes. People with Type 1 Diabetes report chest pain that can come along with nausea, which can be life-threatening, she adds. “High blood sugar can cause irregular heart beat and that is related to chest pain.”

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Swelling

Edema, which is the buildup of fluid in the body, commonly affects the legs, ankles, feet and wrist. Check your feet every day for swelling, cuts and blisters, the American Diabetes Association says. Red, swollen, or tender gums can also be a sign because high blood sugar levels may cause gum disease to get worse.

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Shakiness

“This is usually the result of low blood sugar, Doherty says. “We need to raise it” and a glass of fruit juice will help. Low glucose levels can be dangerous because they could lead to loss of consciousness. Hypoglycemia is a common side effect of using insulin, and it can also occur in people who take pills that cause the pancreas to release more insulin.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes You Can’t Afford to Ignore