DIABETES: 10 Warning Signs of Diabetes

DIABETES: 10 Warning Signs of Diabetes

Diabetes is a widely known health condition that affects millions of people of all ages in the United States. Surprisingly, many people who have diabetes don’t know that they have it. But that’s not all, what gets in the way of people getting checked for and accurately diagnosed is “diabetes stigma,” according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diabetes stigma is defined as “negative attitudes, judgment, discrimination, or prejudice against someone because of their diabetes,” the CDC says.

“It comes from the false idea that people with diabetes made unhealthy food and lifestyle choices, which resulted in their diagnosis,” the CDC explained. “Diabetes stigma can particularly affect people who have diabetes and are overweight. These false beliefs do not consider key factors that can cause diabetes, such as genetics (traits you inherit from your parents) and social determinants of health.”

Diabetes occurs when blood glucose, also called blood sugar, in the body is too high. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs because the body is not able to make insulin. Type 2 diabetes develops because the insulin that the body makes either does not work properly or the body cannot produce enough of it.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that nearly 40 million Americans have diabetes. Of that number, 30 million were diagnosed while 8.5 million were undiagnosed. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 4 U.S. adults have undiagnosed diabetes.

So, how do people know if they have diabetes or have prediabetes? To help them find out, Dr. Ajaykumar D. Rao, the chief of the section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, offers 10 warning signs of diabetes:

1. Urinating and unquenchable thirst

Extreme thirst and frequent urination are the most prevalent warning sign of diabetes, according to Dr. Rao. When the body recognizes high sugar levels, it comes up with ways to eliminate the excess sugar, and urination is the simplest way. But, frequent urination can also cause dehydration.

“It’s not only the sugar that’s being lost, but also the water,” Dr. Rao said.
People with diabetes could have problems with uncontrollable urination at night. Male patients may believe they have a prostate problem but Dr. Rao said it is actually “the body trying to get rid of sugar through urination.”

2. Dramatic weight change

Diabetes can lead to weight loss or weight gain, Dr. Rao said. For example, people with Type 1 diabetes often lose weight because of the lack of insulin production from their body. In contrast, people who take insulin often gain weight, according to the Mayo Clinic. The weight problem can be remedied with diet, medications, and making other lifestyle adjustments.

3. Blurry vision or vision changes

High blood sugar can damage blood vessels in the retina, causing them to swell or leak, and this can result in blurry vision. Dr. Rao recommends people who are experiencing vision changes visit an ophthalmologist to receive a thorough examination.

4. Numbness and tingling

Diabetes can cause nerve damage, known as neuropathy. According to the CDC, neuropathy affects about half of all people with diabetes. High blood sugar harms the nerves and these nerves may stop the brain from sending messages to different parts of the body. This can lead to numbness or a tingling feeling.

5. Slow-healing wounds

Wounds are slower to heal in people with diabetes due to high blood sugar levels, neuropathy, poor circulation and immune system deficiencies, according to Healthline.com. Diabetes also causes people to have a compromised or weakened immune system that stops wounds from healing properly or efficiently.

6. Frequent infection

People who have diabetes may have more bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching than people who do not have the condition. While men and women commonly experience urinary tract infections, women may have more yeast infections because of the high blood sugar.
“Getting to the point where the patient is not responding properly to antibiotics and continues to have that again, it could be, again, the high sugars are putting them at risk for infections,” Dr. Rao said.

7. Foot problems

Nerve damage is frequently the cause of people with diabetes experiencing foot problems, according to the ADA. This is why the organization encourages people with diabetes to monitor calluses because they can develop into ulcers, and ulcers are prone to infection, if they are not treated. Dr. Rao said foot problems are another reason for people to seek medical attention and get diagnosed.

8. Fatigue

Fatigue is not only a warning sign of diabetes but also of other health conditions, medications, and lifestyles. Dr. Rao said fatigue may be caused by dehydration and unquenchable thirst in people with diabetes. Rather than conducting a self-diagnosis on what is causing fatigue, Dr. Rao recommends seeking the advice of a professional.

9. Mood changes

Mood changes, like fatigue, are a side effect of other health conditions, and not always specific to diabetes. “If anybody has a new medical disorder that develops on top of a preexisting mental health situation, it might make those things a little but more difficult to manage,” Dr. Rao said.

10. Chest pains

People with diabetes tend to feel chest pain, also known as angina, according to the ADA. In addition, diabetes also places people at risk for heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Unfortunately, people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes can go a long time without knowing about or regulating this condition, Dr. Rao said.

Learning more about diabetes will go a long way in overcoming diabetes stigma, getting diagnosed and receiving treatment. If anyone is experiencing these warning signs, Dr. Rao recommends getting diagnosed by a medical professional.

“You have to work with your providers,” Dr. Rao said. “I think it’s crucial to get engaged with them. It’s crucial to find out if you’re diagnosed with diabetes or that you need to be screened.”

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