Diabetes Symptoms: Diabetes is often called the silent killer because of its easy to miss symptoms. Of the estimated 24 million people in the U.S. with the disease (including several notable athletes), only 18 million are aware that they have it, leaving six million Americans who have no idea that they are living with diabetes. People with diabetes are not able to use the hormone insulin properly. Insulin is necessary to get sugar from your blood to your cells so they can use it as energy.
Diabetes Symptoms: 5 Signs You Should Not Ignore
When the insulin doesn’t function as it should, the sugar accumulates in the blood instead of being used by the cells. The symptoms can be mild enough that unless you’re aware of the signs, you may live years without knowing that your body is functioning improperly. Watch for these warning signs, pay attention to gradual changes, and if something seems off, see your doctor for a blood sugar test. The longer you go without treating the disease the greater your risk for heart disease, kidney disease, amputation, blindness, and other serious complications.
1. Thirst and excessive pee breaks
People who have diabetes may pee more than someone who is healthy. The average person pees between four and seven times in a 24-hour period. Typically your body will reabsorb glucose as it passes through your kidneys. When you have diabetes, your blood sugar will rise and your body may not be able to bring it back in. Your body will try to get rid of the extra glucose by producing more urine. If you notice you’re constantly thirsty or using the bathroom more than most, you may want to visit your doctor.
2. Constant hunger
When you have high blood sugar, your body will have challenges regulating its glucose. If you’ve eaten something that is high in carbohydrates, your body will make too much insulin while your glucose tends to drop quickly. This will impact you by making you feel shaky and hungry, especially for carbs or sugar that will drive up your glucose levels again.
3. Rapid weight loss
Not every type of weight loss is healthy. While being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes, it is not common to see rapid weight loss in those with diabetes. Overly high blood sugar levels can cause rapid weight loss, like 10 to 20 pounds over a time period of two or three months. The reason behind this significant loss of weight is that the insulin hormone isn’t doing its job of getting glucose or sugar into the cells where it can be used as energy. In response, the body thinks it’s starving and starts breaking down protein from the muscles for fuel.
4. Foot pain and numbness
Over time, abnormally high blood sugar levels will cause damage to the body’s nerves, a condition called diabetic neuropathy. While not all people experience this symptom, more advanced cases of diabetes may notice numbness, tingling, or pain in their extremities, typically starting with the feet. This symptom is most common in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 25 years or more, but it can occur in people who are in the early stages as well.
5. Blurry vision
One of the early warning signs of diabetes is blurred vision. In high-sugar environments like untreated type 2 diabetes, the lens of the eye’s ability to bend is altered. The lens is not damaged, but the muscles of the eye have to work harder to focus, especially when there are rapid changes in blood sugar and the eye muscles have not yet adapted to it. There is a window of time when this symptom will show itself as over time your body will adapt to the increased sugar levels and your vision will return to normal.