World Diabetes Day is coming up on November 14. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic health issues amongst older adults, with an estimated 37 million Americans suffering from the condition. And according to Healthwatch Medway, around 50% of those with diabetes worldwide do not know they have it.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is a genetic condition that typically presents itself early in life, whereas Type 2 is primarily lifestyle related and can develop at any age (though is more common in those over 45.) According to the CDC, between 90% and 95% of all diabetes cases in America are Type 2. Though some symptoms are common across both types, in this post, we are specifically talking about Type 2 diabetes.
It is important to note that none of these symptoms (or even a combination of them) is definitive proof of diabetes. All of these symptoms have numerous other possible causes and only a doctor can diagnose diabetes. If you are concerned, see your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
With that in mind, here are 5 signs that can point to diabetes that you should be aware of.
Feeling Thirsty and Urinating More Frequently
Everyone is slightly different, but most people will need to urinate between 4 and 10 times per day. Suddenly needing to go more often can be a warning sign for diabetes. This is because, in a diabetic body, excess glucose builds up in the blood. This forces the kidneys to work harder than usual and they may not be able to keep up, causing the body to produce more urine.
As a result, you’ll need to use the bathroom more often. And since fluids are passing out of your body more quickly than usual, you may find yourself feeling excessively thirsty.
When you have diabetes, high blood glucose levels mean that your body cannot properly use glucose to fuel itself. This can lead to fatigue. While there are many possible causes of fatigue, it is a common symptom of diabetes.
Slow Healing from Injury
Over time, having high blood sugar levels can impact blood flow, causing nerve damage and making it harder for effective healing to occur. If you notice that your body is taking longer to recover from small injuries such as cuts, scrapes and bruises, untreated diabetes is one possible explanation.
Sores and Infections
Due to the poor circulation and nerve damage that untreated diabetes can cause, many sufferers will develop sores known as diabetic ulcers. These are particularly common on the feet, occurring in around 15% of people with diabetes.
According to University of Michigan Health, about 6% of those who develop foot ulcers will be hospitalized due to infection or related complications. Therefore, if you suspect a wound or sore is a result of diabetes, see your doctor immediately.
Infections can also result from diabetes. Fungal infections of the nose and throat, skin and soft tissue infections, and urinary tract infections are all common in those with diabetes. Women who are suffering from untreated diabetes may also experience vaginal yeast infections more often than usual.
Left untreated, diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves throughout the entire body, including the eyes. Diabetes can affect the eyes in many different ways and diabetic retinopathy, which is caused by diabetes affecting the blood vessels and nerve tissue in the retina, is the leading cause of blindness in American adults.
One common symptom of diabetes is blurred vision, which may affect one eye or both eyes. You may also notice changes in your vision depending upon your blood sugar levels. If you’re experiencing blurred vision (or eye pain), see your doctor and get your eyes checked.
Don’t Ignore the Signs!
In many people, diabetes is preventable. You can reduce your risk by eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, cutting down on added and processed sugars, and taking regular exercise.
Though Type 2 diabetes isn’t curable, it is entirely manageable and those with the condition can lead full and active lives. But left untreated, diabetes can cause serious and permanent health problems including heart disease, kidney damage, blindness, and loss of a lower limb.
So do not ignore the signs. If you think you may be diabetic or at risk of developing diabetes, see your doctor immediately. The sooner diabetes is diagnosed, the sooner you can begin a plan of treatment and management that will allow you to live your life to the fullest.