Diabetes is one of the most commonly-diagnosed ailments in the world, with 30.3 million individuals—that’s 9.4 percent of the total American population—dealing with the disease in the United States alone. Scarier yet is that 7.2 million diabetics in the United States don’t even realize they have it.
While discovering you have diabetes can be a terrifying prospect, the sooner you’re treated, the more manageable your condition will be. In fact, a review of research published in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care reveals that early treatment with insulin can help patients with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar better and gain less weight than those who start treatment later.
Before you find yourself shocked by a diabetes diagnosis, make sure you know these 20 diabetes signs you shouldn’t ignore. If you identify with any of these warning signs on the list, be sure to visit your doctor ASAP to get your blood sugar tested. And if you want to reduce your risk of becoming diabetic in the first place, start with the 40 Tips That Double Weight Loss!
Unintended Weight Loss
While unintentional weight loss may seem like a dream to some people, it can also be a scary sign that your pancreas isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. Accidental weight loss is often one of the first signs of diabetes. However, weight loss may also help you prevent developing the condition in the first place. In fact, losing just 5 percent of your body weight may lower your risk of diabetes by as much as 58 percent. And when you’re ready to ditch a few pounds, start by adding the 40 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep You Slim to your routine.
Are those spots on your shins the result of a dull razor or something more serious? Many diabetics are only clued into their diagnosis when small round or oval lesions begin to appear on their lower legs. These spots, known as diabetic dermopathy, are thought to occur in up to 55 percent of all diabetes diagnoses.
If you’re getting a good night’s rest but still find yourself so tired you can barely function, it’s definitely worth mentioning to your doctor. Diabetes often wreaks havoc on a person’s normal blood sugar levels, causing fatigue in the process. In later stages, the tissue death associated with untreated diabetes can also limit circulation, meaning oxygenated blood isn’t being effectively transported to your vital organs, making your body work harder and tiring you out along the way.
While poor vision is hardly uncommon—more than 60 percent of the American population wears glasses or contacts, after all—sudden changes in your vision, especially blurriness, need to be addressed by your doctor. Blurry vision is often a symptom of diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can cause swelling in the lenses of your eye, distorting your sight in the process. Fortunately, for many people, the effect is temporary and goes away when their blood sugar is being managed.
Whether you’re dealing with frequent UTIs or skin infections, undiagnosed diabetes may be to blame. The high blood sugar associated with diabetes can weaken a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infection. In more advanced cases of the disease, nerve damage and tissue death can open people up to further infections, often in the skin, and could be a precursor to amputation.
Sugary breath isn’t as sweet as it seems. Diabetics often notice that they’ve developed sweet or nail-polish-like breath before they’re diagnosed. However, if you’re dealing with this strange symptom, time is of the essence. Sweet breath is often a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition in which your body can’t effectively convert glucose into energy, keeping your blood sugar at dangerous—potentially fatal—levels if untreated.
It’s no surprise that most people could stand to drink more water. In fact, the majority of Americans are drinking less than half of the recommended eight glasses of water each day. However, if you’re finding yourself excessively thirsty, that could be a sign that you’re dealing with dangerously high blood sugar. Patients with diabetes often find themselves extremely thirsty as their bodies try to flush out excess sugar in their blood when their own insulin production just won’t cut it. If you’re parched, instead of turning to a sugary drink, quench that thirst with one of the 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss!
When your kidneys have to compensate for the excess sugar in your blood, it often means you’ll find yourself rushing to the nearest bathroom all day long. The combination of your kidneys working overtime and excessive thirst makes round-the-clock peeing a reality for many people with unmanaged diabetes.
If you’ve noticed that your gums are looking surprisingly prominent, it’s time to check in with your endocrinologist. The inflammation associated with diabetes-related high blood sugar often manifests in the mouth, causing oral issues from swollen and receding gums to excessive bleeding when you floss.
If your sex drive has gone from nonstop to non-existent, diabetes may be to blame. The poor circulation and depression that often accompany diabetes can make it difficult to become aroused.
That queasy feeling in your stomach could be something less benevolent than butterflies. Both high and low blood sugar can cause nausea, and this unsettled feeling is often one of the first signs diabetics notice before a diagnosis.
While some diabetics are tipped off to their condition by unintended weight loss, weight gain is nearly as common. Diabetes and thyroid disorders often go hand-in-hand, making diabetics more susceptible unwanted shifts on the scale. And when you’re ready to lose those pounds, ditch them with the 55 Best-Ever Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Which came first: the diabetes or the PCOS? For many women, a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome means a diabetes diagnosis isn’t far behind. PCOS and diabetes are both associated with insulin resistance, meaning there are similar hormonal issues at play in both diseases. Fortunately, managing your PCOS and losing weight may help reduce your risk of becoming diabetic over time.
If you’re feeling low and can’t figure out why, diabetes could be the culprit. The rapid surges and dips in blood sugar that are part and parcel of untreated diabetes can cause profound shifts in your mood, including depression.
That snappy disposition that’s replaced your normally sunny one could be a sneaky sign of diabetes. Blood sugar dips, nausea, fatigue, and poor circulation can make anyone feel less than terrific, often making those with unmanaged diabetes irritable.
Tingling and Numbness in Your Extremities
That tingly feeling you get on a first date is a good thing. That tingly feeling in your hands and feet? Not so much. Elevated blood sugar can cause nerve damage, which is often signaled by a tingly feeling in your hands and your feet. If left untreated, this can lead to tissue death and amputations down the line.
Slow Wound Healing
If that cut you had two months ago looks just as fresh as it did the day you got it, it’s time to ask your doctor to check you for diabetes. The combination of high blood sugar, poor circulation, and recurrent infections associated with diabetes often means that injuries are slow to heal.
For men, a noticeable decline in your ability to get erections could be a sign that a diabetes diagnosis isn’t far off. In fact, according to research published in Diabetes Spectrum, up to 71 percent of men with diabetes suffer from erectile dysfunction, too.
Those dark patches on your skin could be more serious than a blotchy tan. In fact, they might be the first sign of diabetes. This darkening of the skin, which usually occurs on the hands and feet, in folds of skin, along the neck, and in a person’s groin and armpits, called acanthosis nigricans, often occurs when insulin levels are high. The high insulin levels in your blood can increase your body’s production of skin cells, many of which have increased pigmentation, giving skin a darkened appearance.
Feeling famished all the time? Your body could be trying to tell you that something’s up with your blood sugar. Many people with diabetes experience extreme hunger when their condition is unmanaged, thanks to high blood sugar levels. When your body can’t effectively convert the sugar in your blood into usable energy, this may leave you pining for every sandwich or sweet you see. And if you’re looking for a filling snack that won’t put your health at risk, enjoy one of the 25 Best and Worst Low-Sugar Protein Bars!