Do you know someone with diabetes or does diabetes run in your family? Do you have diabetes? More than likely the answer to at least one of these questions is yes because diabetes is quite prevalent. In fact, in the United States, more revenue and more money are spent on diabetes than any other condition. Diabetes is a leading cause of heart disease, strokes, poor circulation, poor wound healing, and diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure in the United States. So how do you know if you have diabetes? How would you know? Today I'm going to give you diabetes symptoms and 10 warning signs should NEVER ignore.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that disrupts the way your body uses sugar. So the cells in your body, all of the cells in your body need sugar in order to have energy. They need sugar or glucose in order to properly function. In order for sugar to enter your cells, the hormone insulin is needed. So insulin is like a key that unlocks the door in order for sugar or glucose to get into your cells. If you don't have enough insulin in your body, then you don't have the keys to open the cells and glucose cannot get into the cells and you don't have the proper energy. Or if you do have enough insulin, but your body cells don't react to the insulin, then still that critical sugar cannot get into your cells. And this is what happens when you have diabetes, you have a lot of sugar in your blood, and you have elevated glucose or hyperglycemia, but that sugar is not inside of the cells where it needs to be. The causes of diabetes can be genetic or environmental.
Type 1 Diabetes
For type 1 diabetes specifically, the body has an inadequate amount of insulin. And this typically occurs due to the destruction of cells in the pancreas which should be secreting insulin. And most often you have autoantibodies, which destroy the beta cells, those cells in the pancreas. Autoantibodies are antibodies that instead of attacking viruses and bacteria and germs the way they're supposed to these antibodies turn on you and attack your body. Just like an autobiography is a book written about yourself, autoantibodies are antibodies that attack you. And so in type 1 diabetes, usually autoantibodies destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, so you don't have enough insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes
For type 2 diabetes you typically have enough insulin, but your body's cells don't react to the insulin. And so you have all types of keys, you have plenty of insulin, but none of the keys will open the door. Now, I will say that in some patients even if they have type 2 diabetes, a lot of times that high blood sugar, that high glucose will actually impair the cells that make insulin. And so some type 2 diabetics also need insulin.
In addition to diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2, there's also gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs in women who are pregnant. During pregnancy, a lady's body typically requires more insulin. So if your body is not able to produce an adequate amount of insulin, then you can develop elevated blood sugar or diabetes. Also, the pregnancy itself can cause your body to produce a certain substance that prevents your body from processing the insulin properly. In other words, the pregnancy in and of itself and the substances related to pregnancy that are produced can cause diabetes.
So what does that mean? Once a lady with gestational diabetes has the baby, if she did not have diabetes prior to the pregnancy, then usually diabetes will go away, but if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you are at an increased risk of developing diabetes mellitus type 2 later in life.
10 Diabetes Symptoms and Warning Signs You Should NEVER Ignore
And now for the 10 warning signs and symptoms of diabetes, you should NEVER ignore. And remember symptoms are what you feel, signs are what you see.
1. Increased Urination
When you have diabetes and you have elevated glucose or sugar in the blood, your body tries to get rid of it, and so you may get rid of it in your urine. When you urinate the glucose out you also take out water from your body and this can lead to dehydration. Now, typically, it varies, but typically most people will use the restroom maybe six or seven times a day, but if you're finding that you're using the restroom even more than that, and to the point where it's really interfering with your daily life, you may have excess urination and this could be a warning sign of diabetes.
2. Increased Thirst
Now, if you have this increased urination that will dehydrate you, so then what happens? You'll be thirsty. And so you'll be drinking, drinking, drinking. You have polydipsia, increased thirst, but the more you drink, the more you urinate, and so it's an ongoing cycle.
3. Unintentional Weight Loss
You're losing weight, but not on purpose, and this could be a warning symptom. When you have high blood sugar, or when you have this elevated blood glucose, sure you have a lot of sugar in the blood, but remember if that sugar is not in the cells, then your body is not getting the proper energy. So what do you do? You try to eat more in order to gain energy. You're craving food, and so you're eating, you're eating, you're eating, but because your body is not able to properly metabolize sugar, you're not getting the energy and you're losing weight. People who have diabetes or hyperglycemia can really lose quite a bit of weight. You might drop 20 pounds in one or two months even. So if you have unintentional weight loss, this could be a warning sign of diabetes.
When you have diabetes, again, your body is not utilizing the sugar for energy properly. So even though you have that high blood sugar, you're not getting the proper energy and this can lead to tiredness, fatigue. Also, if you are urinating a lot and you're dehydrated that can add to the fatigue. And if you're getting up in the middle of the night to urinate a lot, if you have nocturia, that can also disrupt your sleep pattern and lead to fatigue. So while fatigue can be a symptom of many conditions, it can certainly be a warning sign of diabetes.
5. Increased Hunger
Again, you're not utilizing energy properly in diabetes and so you might find yourself eating excessively as a warning sign.
6. Blurry Vision
Diabetes or having elevated blood sugar can cause blurry vision. You can have shifts in the fluid which can actually change the shape of the lens in the eye. Now, if this is caught early enough, then once the diabetes is corrected, the blurry vision can return to normal. However, long-term untreated diabetes can lead to permanent eye damage, you can get diabetic retinopathy. So you definitely don't want to miss this potentially temporary warning sign and have it turn into a permanent condition.
7. Frequent Yeast Infections and Urinary Tract Infections
Patients with diabetes can have compromised immune systems, and we all naturally have some yeast in our bodies. Yeast loves sugar. So if you have diabetes and you have elevated blood sugar, then the yeast can thrive and you can get frequent yeast infections. So that can certainly be a warning sign of diabetes. Also, frequent urinary tract infections can be a warning sign because again, a compromised immune system and the bacteria can be thriving in your body. So frequent yeast infections, recurrent urinary tract infections can be a diabetes symptom.
8. Poor Wound Healing
With diabetes, high blood sugar, you will tend to have a compromise of your circulation and it will take your wounds longer to heal than normal. So if you're noticing that you're having cuts or wounds that are really taking a long time to heal, this poor wound healing can be a warning sign of diabetes. If this is not caught early enough as a warning sign and you get long-term complications of diabetes, this poor wound healing can lead to limb amputations. So you definitely want to pay attention to your body, and if you're noticing that your wounds are healing poorly, it could be a diabetes symptom.
9. Skin Changes
If you have dry skin and itchy skin, that could be a warning sign of diabetes. Remember with frequent urination, you can get very dehydrated, and dehydrated skin tends to be itchy, so that can be a warning sign. Also, you can get something called acanthosis nigricans which is when you get a dark velvety appearance, especially behind the neck or in the underarms. And this darker skin, this hyperpigmentation can be a sign of insulin resistance, and it can be a warning sign of diabetes.
10. Tingling of the Feet and Hands
If you get a tingling of the toes and the feet, or if you get tingling and numbness in the fingers, that could be a sign of peripheral neuropathy, which can occur in diabetes. So if you're noticing some nerve changes and some tingling, that can definitely be a warning sign of diabetes. It's very important that you pay careful attention to your body and that you see your physician regularly.
When you see your doctor for a routine exam, they typically do screen you for diabetes when they check your lab work and they do a blood sugar or blood glucose. If you have any risk factors for diabetes especially, risk factors being that you're over the age of 45, or if you are black, Latino, Native American, if you are overweight or obese, if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, and certainly if you have a family history of diabetes or a personal history of gestational diabetes. If you have any of these risk factors, make sure that you let your doctor know and ask to be screened for diabetes. You can even have a hemoglobin A1C, fasting blood glucose levels, and other screening. Just talk with your doctor.
There are several varying treatments for diabetes. Lifestyle is one treatment, making sure that you have a proper diet, proper exercise, and you certainly want to decrease your abdominal obesity. In other words, having excess fat in your abdomen can be a risk factor for diabetes. For men, if your waist circumference is greater than 40 inches and for women, if it's greater than 35 inches that puts you at a higher risk for diabetes.
Treatment can also include insulin of course, certainly for type 1 diabetics, but there are some patients with diabetes mellitus type 2 who also require insulin. And then there are oral medications for diabetes, such as metformin, Januvia, there are many options. The key is to pay attention to your body and never ignore the warning signs and symptoms of diabetes.