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Signs You've Developed Diabetes Without Knowing It

The chronic disease raises your risk of several serious illnesses—including heart disease and, yes, COVID.

Over the past two years as COVID-19 dominated the headlines and our day-to-day lives, another pandemic has been spreading silently and destructively. In 2020, diabetes killed three times as many people as COVID-19. The chronic disease raises your risk of several serious illnesses—including heart disease and, yes, COVID—and can shorten your life if not controlled. But for all its seriousness, diabetes doesn't always make itself obvious. In fact, you might have developed diabetes without knowing it. These are some of the common signs. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Tingling or Burning in Hands or Feet

Pain in the foot of the elderly

Diabetes can cause a complication known as diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage caused by a rise in blood sugar. According to the Mayo Clinic, it may affect 50% of people with diabetes, and the most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the feet and legs, followed by the hands and arms. It can feel like a tingling or burning sensation, numbness, decreased sensitivity to pain or temperature, or sharp pains or cramps. The symptoms tend to get worse at night.


Blurry Vision

woman over white with blurred vision and trouble focusing

If you're experiencing blurry or double vision, dark or floating spots in your line of sight, or pain or pressure in one or both eyes, it could be a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak, or abnormal new blood vessels to grow, leading to those symptoms. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it's the leading cause of blindness in American adults.

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Increased Thirst

drink water

As excess blood sugar (glucose) leaves the body through urine, it pulls water from the body's surrounding tissues along with it. That can leave you dehydrated and feeling thirsty, and drinking water might not bring relief. Black-ish star Anthony Anderson said he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2001 after drinking five gallons of water in one night led him to visit the doctor.

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Increased Hunger


As diabetes increases glucose in the bloodstream, it also prevents cells from using that glucose for energy. Someone with diabetes may feel constantly hungry (a condition called hyperphagia), as energy-deprived muscles clamor for fuel. Those feelings of hunger may not be relieved by eating. 

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Frequent Urination

Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

The average person urinates four to seven times in a day. Someone with diabetes might urinate more often than that, or have to get up in the middle of the night to go. The reason: The body increases urine output to try and flush out excess blood sugar. Your urine might also seem cloudy, or smell sweet or fruitlike.

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Erectile Dysfunction

Sad man sitting on a bed, girlfriend in the background.

High levels of blood sugar can damage arteries throughout the body. That can cause problems in the heart, brain—and down below. Damaged blood vessels may be less efficient at transporting blood flow to the penis, causing erections that are less frequent, more difficult to achieve, or softer than normal.

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Unintentional Weight Loss

feet on scale

Dropping pounds without dieting or increased exercise can signify a serious health condition like diabetes. As diabetes prevents cells from absorbing glucose from food for energy, the body may begin to burn its fat stores as fuel instead. If you're shedding pounds without trying, it's a good idea to see your doctor and ask if you should be tested for diabetes. They can administer a simple blood glucose or urine test to make a diagnosis. 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. Read more about Michael
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