13 Early Warning Signs of Diabetes You Shouldn’t Ignore
Type 2 diabetes is a common, modern-age disease. It initially presents with few symptoms, which can be easily overlooked. One out of three people who have it don’t even know about it. As diabetes is a serious condition that can cause dangerous complications – including cardiovascular and neurological damage – it is important to detect it as soon as possible. With the right diet, exercise regimen and, if necessary, medications, diabetes can be kept under control, and the person can continue to live a fulfilling life. Find out about some of the early warning signs of diabetes, so you can act on it and protect your health.
Warning Signs of Diabetes
In 2013, over 382 million people around the world had diabetes, and 90% of them had type 2 diabetes. This is a metabolic disease, characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Production of insulin – a pancreatic hormone that usually deals with balancing blood sugar levels – is either reduced or the cells don’t respond to it properly. The following symptoms develop as a result of this:
1. Frequent urination (polyuria): If you notice that you have to urinate more often, and you wake up during the night (sometimes several times) to empty your bladder, this could be a warning sign. The kidneys start working harder to get rid of the excess glucose from the blood.
2. Excessive thirst (polydipsia): This symptom links with the previous one. As you lose more fluids, the body will try to replenish them, hence the constant need to drink.
3. Increased hunger (polyphagia): Due to extreme highs and lows in blood sugar levels, the body develops a sudden urge to eat. The cells don’t get enough glucose, so you crave it.
4. Dry mouth: You experience a lack of moisture in the mouth, which can be both unpleasant and dangerous. Dry mouth can become a breeding ground for bacteria and cause different oral and dental problems. Gum diseases are a known complication of diabetes.
5. Unexplained weight loss or weight gain: As insulin can’t get glucose into the cells, the body reacts as if it would be starving and starts using proteins from the muscles. Rapid, unexplained weight loss (10 to 20 pounds over a couple of months) is not healthy and requires further investigation. On the other hand, increased consumption of sugary foods can lead to weight gain.
6. Fatigue: Excessive tiredness can develop when body constantly compensates for the lack of glucose in the cells. It also doesn’t help if your sleep gets interrupted by the urgency to urinate. People start experiencing lower levels of energy and are chronically not feeling well. It is not uncommon to also feel irritable and in a bad mood.
Further reading: You can also read my previous article about 6 reasons you are tired all the time, in which health issues are one of them.
7. Vision problems: High blood sugar also affects the eyes. It changes the shape of the lens and eyes. As a result, your vision becomes blurry. You can see occasional flashes of light and the vision gets distorted. Initially, the changes to the eyes are reversible. However, if sugar levels stay high for a long period of time, this can cause permanent damage and can even lead to eyesight loss.
Further reading: find here more health warnings your eyes may be sending and how to protect your eyes.
8. Headaches – A headache can develop due to elevated blood sugar levels and is considered an early sign of hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). The symptom gets worse as condition worsens.
Further reading: Read my article about the top 15 causes of headaches and how to get rid of them naturally.
9. Infections, cuts and bruises that do not heal: This classic sign of diabetes is a consequence of blood vessel damage. Excessive amounts of sugar harm the veins and arteries, so they become less able to transport blood to where it is needed to repair and heal the damage.
10. Yeast infections: Since bacteria and fungi thrive in a sugary environment, infections can become more common. The most frequent ones are yeast infections, such as candida, especially vaginal candida infections in women.
11. Numbness and tingling in hands and feet: This symptom is a result of nerve damage – neuropathy – that is connected with diabetes. Tingling and numbness can be accompanied by burning pain and swelling. If sugar levels are not brought down, the nerve damage can become permanent and presents a serious complication of diabetes.
12. Skin changes: Velvety dark skin, known as achantosis nigricans, can appear on the neck, groin and armpit. You can also observe other unusual skin changes and itchiness, especially around the vaginal or groin area.
13. Sexual dysfunction: Diabetes also damages blood vessels and nerves in the sex organs, which can lead to different sexual problems. Women can experience vaginal dryness and men can have difficulty with erection. 35% to 75% of men with diabetes suffer from impotence.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, see your doctor so you can have a blood test and establish if you are indeed suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Several tests are used and they need to be repeated to give a reliable diagnosis. The fasting plasma glucose test checks your sugar levels after 8 hours of fasting. If your blood sugar is above 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) on two occasions, it means you have diabetes. Just as worrying are slightly lower values of 100 to 125 mg/dL. This is considered to be prediabetes. If you have been diagnosed as prediabetic, read my article about the 7 effective steps to prevent diabetes.
Remember that type 2 diabetes is, to some degree, a preventable disease, and that the complications can be avoided with the right approach to life and health. Some of the risk factors you have influence over are:
- Smoking (find here 5 natural scientific proven ways to quit smoking).
- Being overweight – People with belly fat (visceral obesity) are especially at risk (find how to lose stubborn belly fat for good without counting calories in my ultimate e-book guide Blast Your Belly Fat).
- Physical inactivity
- Eating an unhealthy diet rich in red meat, unhealthy fats, sugars and processed food – One can of sugary soda a day increases your risk of diabetes by 22% (read my article about what happens to your body when you drink soda).
Generally speaking, you will do a lot if you try to eat healthy, exercise moderately, keep your stress levels under control and avoid bad habits. As we get older, the risk of diabetes increases, so it’s even more important to promote a healthy lifestyle and stay active.
You may also be interested to read my other related articles about diabetes:
- 7 Effective Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
- The 12 Best Foods to Control Type 2 Diabetes
- Top 10 Spices and Herbs for Type 2 Diabetes