Diabetes is a disease that affects 371 million people worldwide, and 187 million of them don’t even know they have the disease, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). As if the disease wasn’t hazardous enough, living with diabetes without being diagnosed is extremely dangerous.
Here are 10 serious red flags for diabetes that everyone needs to know.
1. Increased Thirst
Find that you’re waking up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth? Rushing to get water every few minutes? While it’s healthy to consume a good amount of water each day, this increased need for water is actually a symptom called polydipsia.
When you have diabetes, excess sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood. Your kidneys are forced to work overtime and if they can’t keep up, the excess sugar is excreted into your urine, dragging fluids out of your tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated and craving water.
2. Dark Patches
Just another reason to check your skin for strange irregularities every day. Should you notice dark spots on your skin that seem to be growing or multiplying, bring this to your doctor’s attention immediately, as this is a sign of (especially type 1) diabetes.
3. Weight Loss
Typically, you associate weight GAIN with diabetes, but weight loss is a symptom as well. When you lose sugar through frequent urination, you also lose calories. This is especially likely if you have type 1 diabetes.
At the same time, diabetes may keep the sugar from your food from reaching your cells — leading to constant hunger. This sign, combined with the loss of calories through urine, can cause you to lose weight. However, it can also drive you to excessive eating with a hunger that cannot be satisfied, causing weight gain.
5. Extremity Pain
Excess sugar in your blood can lead to nerve damage. This may result in a tingling and loss of sensation in your hands and feet, as well as burning pain in your arms, hands, legs, and feet.
6. Weight Gain
There are so many aspects of diabetes that potentially cause weight gain. That constant hunger we mentioned earlier could be a cause of weight gain. An effect called “insulin resistance” is another reason why people, specifically with type 2 diabetes, gain weight and struggle to take it off.
Don’t categorize mood swings and being extra irritable as “normal.” Changes in emotion are just as important to keep an eye on as physical changes! Low glucose levels can cause extreme changes in mood and depression can often follow after a diabetes diagnosis.
8. Vision Changes
Diabetes affects all parts of your body, including your eyes. If you have high levels of blood sugar, we’ve mentioned that this will pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of your eyes. This makes it very difficult for your eyes to focus.
Left untreated, diabetes can cause new blood vessels to form in your retina — the back part of your eye — and damage established vessels. Should these changes progress undetected, they can lead to vision loss and blindness.
9. Slow Healing Time
If you get a nick or cut and it will not heal, make note of that: slow healing time is a common symptom of diabetes. Doctors have observed that infections seem more common if you have diabetes, although there’s not a lot of research to tell us why. It may be that high levels of blood sugar impair your body’s natural healing process and your ability to fight infections. For women, bladder and vaginal infections are especially common.
10. Itchy Skin
This is also known as pruritus and for diabetics, it is typically caused by poor, irregular blood flow. When itching is caused by poor blood flow, as it does with diabetes, you’ll likely feel it in your lower legs and feet. Lotion, sometimes prescription strength lotion, can help ease this annoyance.
Needless to say, if you notice any of these symptoms or anything new and suspicious with your body, always bring the concern to your doctor.