Diabetes is often misunderstood as a condition that primarily affects people who are hereditarily predisposed to acquire the illness or people who consume a lot of sugary foods. However, with the lifestyle of the average person becoming increasingly more sedentary, the risk of developing diabetes has become far more widespread. An increasing number of people are being diagnosed with the disease, and many more are living with the disease without being diagnosed. Knowing the diabetes signs and symptoms can help people seek medical intervention at an early stage, thus making it easier to manage the condition and lead a relatively normal life. In this article, you’ll learn about the diabetes signs that you need to keep an eye out for.
What Is Diabetes?
Contrary to popular opinion, diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus) isn’t just one single disease. Rather, it’s a group of diseases that stem from metabolic disorders that prevent the body from using and storing glucose properly, resulting in high glucose concentrations in the blood. There are three kinds of diabetes as we’ll see below.
Type 1 Diabetes
This type of diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system begins to attack the beta cells in the pancreas, thus resulting in a reduction in the ability of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin. Type 1 diabetes used to be more common in children, which was why it was previously referred to as juvenile diabetes. However, adults can also develop type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Here, the body’s cells slowly and progressively fail to respond correctly to insulin, leading to insulin resistance. As a result, glucose levels in the blood continue to rise, eventually leading to severe complications. Type 2 diabetes can often go undiagnosed for a long time and is usually detected only when serious symptoms begin to appear.
As is evident from the name, gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women. The condition often resolves itself after childbirth. However, studies have shown that a significant percentage of women who suffer from gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
What Causes Diabetes?
The precise cause of type 1 diabetes is currently unknown. However, type 2 diabetes can develop for a number of reasons. Some common causes and risk factors of type 2 diabetes are:
Common Diabetes Signs to Look Out For
Explained below are some of the commonly noticed signs and symptoms that indicate the onset of diabetes.
Thirst is often one of the first symptoms of diabetes. Since the body is unable to use the glucose in the bloodstream, it’s excreted through the urinary system. A lot of the water from the bodily tissues is also eliminated along with the excess glucose, leaving the patient feeling thirsty and dehydrated.
Dark Patches on the Skin
Dark patches on the skin can occur because of a number of reasons, and diabetes is one among these causes. The disease triggers the insulin receptors present in the skin, eventually causing mutations to the normal tissue. This can result in irregularly shaped dark patches on the skin.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Weight loss is a common side effect of the disease, particularly in type 1 diabetes. Loss of water from the body’s tissues can result in considerable loss of weight in the preliminary stages of the disease. Eventually, as the body burns fat or muscle to meet the energy requirements, patients can lose more weight.
Unexpected Weight Gain
As frustrating as it might seem, weight loss isn’t the only weight-related issue that is among the various diabetes signs. The disease can also result in an increase in weight in some people, because it affects the delicate balance in the body’s endocrine system, leading to an accumulation of fat.
Frequent hunger pangs and an increase in appetite are some of the other common symptoms that people with diabetes report before they’re diagnosed with the disease. Diabetes results in insulin resistance, which interferes with the absorption of sugar. Consequently, people with diabetes have lower energy levels and feel hungry frequently.
Sweetness of Breath
Sweet-smelling breath can be a pleasant and welcome change. However, beneath this pleasantness, there could be a more sinister reason like diabetic changes in the body. Lack of adequate insulin makes your body burn more fat and muscles in order to produce energy, leading to ketones being released into your bloodstream. This can then make your breath smell fruity.
Pain in Your Extremities
A kind of nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy occurs as diabetes progresses. This kind of damage involves the nerves in the extremities like the hands and the feet. Hyperglycemia, which is the term used for excess sugar in the bloodstream, damages the nerves and causes frequent sharp pains in the process.
Dryness of Mouth
Since diabetes generally results in a lot of water being leeched from your body’s tissues in order to flush out excess sugar in the blood, your mouth can often feel drier than it normally does. Dryness can eventually lead to issues like tooth decay and other gum-related problems like gum recession.
Changes in Your Vision
When you wonder about the diabetes signs that are noticeable at the onset of the disease, your vision isn’t the first thing that you’ll think of. However, high levels of blood sugar can lead to blurred vision. Diabetes also causes changes in vision, like diabetic retinopathy, where blood vessels in the retina are damaged, causing vision loss.
A Feeling of Nausea
Diabetes can interfere with the ability of the stomach to empty completely. This condition is called diabetic gastroparesis. A resultant side effect of this condition is nausea, which can occur often and frequently. However, since nausea can be the result of various causes, it isn’t immediately linked with diabetes unless other diabetes signs occur simultaneously.
Fatigue and Exhaustion
Fatigue is something everyone experiences at some point in their lives. However, fatigue and exhaustion can also be diabetes signs. Since the body is unable to extract the nutrients needed for it to function, patients with untreated diabetes can often feel exhausted. In extreme cases, diabetic ketoacidosis can occur.
PCOD and Other Hormone-Related Disorders
Another one of the many diabetes signs that are often misread to be symptoms of other conditions is PCOD. Shifting blood glucose levels can also result in fluctuating hormone levels in your bloodstream. This can cause weight gain and hormonal imbalances, leading to disorders like PCOD.
Numbness in Your Arms and Legs
The pins-and-needles sensation is a common feeling, especially if you’ve been sitting or standing still for too long. However, diabetic numbness is different from this feeling. In extreme cases, when diabetes and its related symptoms are left untreated, the numbness could pave the way to tissue death and gangrene.
An increased frequency in urination is one of the most common diabetes signs. Since the body extracts more water from the tissues to meet the demands of flushing out the excess glucose in the blood, you may find that you feel the need to urinate more frequently, even if you’re not drinking more water than usual.
Stomach pain is such a common issue that it’s not the first thing you’ll associate with diabetes. However, as you’ve already learned, diabetes can often result in diabetic gastroparesis, meaning that the stomach doesn’t empty entirely. As a result, the body’s ability to absorb nutrients is impaired. A side-effect of this condition is an intense abdominal pain in the stomach region.
Increased Instances of Infection
One of the lesser-known diabetes signs is the increased risk of infections associated with the disease. The possible infections that can arise as a result of diabetes include kidney or bladder contaminants, and dermal infections that can occur due to cracks in the skin. Diabetes can also cause nerve damage in the extremities.
Another one of the various diabetes signs that are often mistaken as symptoms of other diseases is general weakness. Untreated diabetes can make regular chores like washing the dishes or mopping the house feel like tough challenges because the body doesn’t process glucose properly, leaving patients with too little energy.
People with undiagnosed diabetes may find that their skin feels drier and more itchy that it usually does. This is because your skin is dehydrated, as the disease pulls water from your body’s tissues. Sometimes, the skin can also get so dry that it begins to feel rough and shows signs of cracking.
Reduced Healing Ability
Diabetes impedes the body’s natural ability to heal. The functioning of the red blood cells and white blood cells is affected, and this reduces the body’s capacity to heal minor wounds and issues like cuts, sores, or cracks. If you find that you don’t recover from minor problems as fast as you usually do, get yourself tested.
Now you’ve had a chance to understand the various diabetes signs and symptoms, it should be easier to recognize any noticeable changes in your body that could indicate the onset of the disease. As with most other conditions, a single symptom may not always suggest that you’re suffering from diabetes. However, if you notice two or more of these symptoms together, it may be a good idea to visit the doctor and get yourself checked up. After all, early detection can help manage the condition far more easily.