Early symptoms of diabetes arise from high levels of glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes often presents with severe symptoms that develop rapidly within a few days or weeks. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes symptoms can go unnoticed until additional chronic health issues emerge.
While some symptoms are common to both types of diabetes, they can be subtle and easily dismissed as minor inconveniences. It is concerning that a majority of individuals living with diabetes are unaware of their condition, as it delays necessary management and increases the risk of complications.
To mitigate the risk of severe complications, early diagnosis of diabetes is crucial. Here are eight warning signs that can help you catch diabetes early:
Numbness in the fingers, toes, hands, and feet may indicate early-stage diabetes. It typically starts as a slight tingling or prickle, caused by increased blood sugar levels leading to restricted blood vessels and nerve damage. If left untreated, this sensation can progress to severe pain, impede motor function, and potentially require amputation.
2. Frequent Thirst
Elevated blood sugar levels cause dehydration as the body attempts to dilute the excess sugar by drawing fluid from other tissues. This persistent dehydration can trigger a constant feeling of thirst, regardless of the amount of water consumed. High blood sugar levels can also hinder the kidneys' ability to reabsorb sugar, resulting in increased urination and further dehydration.
3. Extreme Hunger
People with diabetes often experience constant hunger regardless of their food intake. The body's inability to extract sufficient energy from food due to insulin resistance or insufficient production prompts persistent hunger signals. The muscles and tissues signal the brain to increase food consumption, aiming to acquire the energy they need from a larger quantity of food.
5. Unexplained Weight Loss
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to rapid and unexplained weight loss, even when individuals are consuming a normal or increased amount of food. As the body fails to extract energy from glucose in food, it turns to alternative sources within the body, such as fat and protein stores, resulting in weight loss. The severity of weight loss correlates with the progression of diabetes.
Inadequate energy production due to the body's inability to convert glucose into usable energy with insulin can lead to persistent fatigue. The level of fatigue can range from general tiredness to debilitating exhaustion.
Fatigue, chronic hunger, and unexplained weight loss are interconnected symptoms that often occur together. Experiencing multiple symptoms simultaneously should prompt a consultation with a doctor for a blood sugar test. It is important to note that these symptoms can also be associated with depression.
7. Blurry vision
High blood sugar levels can cause blurry vision by damaging blood vessels and restricting fluid supply to the eyes. This leads to swelling, altering the shape of the eyes and impairing focus. Blurry vision, although distinct from diabetic retinopathy (a leading cause of blindness in adults), should be regarded as an early warning sign of potential vision problems. Fortunately, if blurry vision is an early symptom, it should resolve once blood sugar levels normalise.
8. Chronic Infections
Diabetics are more susceptible to infections due to the favourable environment high blood glucose provides for bacterial growth. Common infections include bladder and kidney infections in relation to increased urination and compromised immune function. Women with diabetes frequently experience yeast infections, and foot infections become a higher risk as blood vessels and nerves are damaged. Healing becomes challenging as diabetes suppresses the immune system and impairs white blood cell function.
8. Dark Patches of Skin
Diabetes can manifest in various skin conditions, ranging from dryness and itchiness caused by dehydration to a condition known as acanthosis nigricans. Acanthosis nigricans appears as dark patches of velvety skin, typically found in body folds and creases such as elbows, knees, or armpits. This condition arises in insulin-resistant diabetics when excess insulin and glucose accumulate in the bloodstream, leading to rapid skin cell reproduction and subsequent dark patches.
Catch it Early
If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if multiple symptoms are present, it is advisable to consult with a doctor and undergo a diabetes test. Early detection of the disease, when reversible symptoms are prevalent, is vital for effective management and prevention of severe complications.
For more comprehensive information about diabetes, please refer to additional resources on the topic, like the Diabetes Australia website.