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If You Have Diabetes, This Is When You'll Begin to Feel Symptoms

Untreated diabetes can have severely damage your body.

In terms of health news, COVID and cancer tend to dominate the headlines. Rightly so. Those ongoing health crises demand awareness, because prevention and early detection can significantly reduce their capacity to kill. But the same is true for another epidemic which is less discussed but equally serious: Diabetes. Today, more than 11% of people in the U.S. have diabetes, and more than 8.5 million Americans have the condition but are undiagnosed. Untreated diabetes is dangerous, because it can have severe, wide-ranging effects on the body. Read on to find out more about when you might begin to feel symptoms, and what those might be—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


This Is When You'll Begin to Feel Symptoms

Doctor with glucometer and insulin pen device talking to male patient at medical office in hospital.

Type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in childhood, can come on quickly, with noticeable symptoms developing in just a few weeks or months.

But the American diabetes epidemic is predominantly driven by Type 2 diabetes, a type of diabetes that is directly influenced by diet and lifestyle choices. Those symptoms can develop over a long time—and you may not recognize them at first.

"Type 2 diabetes symptoms often take several years to develop," says the CDC, which calls the symptoms "hard to spot." "Some people don't notice any symptoms at all. Type 2 diabetes usually starts when you're an adult, though more and more children and teens are developing it."

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Even Mild Diabetes Can Be Dangerous

Woman suffering from pain kidney disease while sitting on bed at home.

"High blood sugar can sneak up on you without any obvious symptoms," says the Cleveland Clinic. "Even mild blood sugar elevation can damage your nerves, kidneys and retinas. And the higher your blood sugar levels and the longer you go without treatment, the worse the damage can get."

A number of the most common symptoms of diabetes might be the first ones you experience. Here's what the experts say you should watch out for.

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Frequent Urination

Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

Someone with diabetes might urinate more often than usual, and have to get up in the middle of the night to urinate. That's because when blood sugar rises in the body, urine output naturally increases to try and flush out the excess. Your urine might also seem cloudy, or smell sweet or fruitlike.

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Increased Thirst

woman drinking water

Frequent urination can cause dehydration, which can leave you feeling constantly thirsty. Compounding the situation: As excess blood sugar leaves the body, it pulls water from the body's surrounding tissues along with it, making you even more dehydrated. If you're thirstier than usual and drinking water doesn't satiate you like it used to, that's a red flag that should be reported to your doctor.

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Increased Hunger or Unintentional Weight Loss

feet on scale

At the same time that diabetes increases the level of glucose in the bloodstream, it actually blocks cells from using that glucose for energy. That can have two effects: You may feel constantly hungry as energy-deprived muscles clamor for fuel, and the body may start to burn excess fat stores for energy, causing you to lose weight without trying.

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Tingling or Burning Hands or Feet

Acute pain in a women wrist

Rising blood sugar can damage nerves throughout the body, a condition called diabetic neuropathy. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the feet, legs, hands and arms. It can produce tingling, burning, numbness, decreased sensitivity to pain or temperature or sharp pains or cramps in the affected areas. The symptoms tend to get worse at night.

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Blurry Vision

woman over white with blurred vision and trouble focusing

Blurry or double vision can indicate a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak, or abnormal new blood vessels to grow, leading to vision problems. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it's the leading cause of blindness in American adults. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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