Diabetes is a life-changing condition that affects an individual’s ability to produce and/or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is produced when blood levels of glucose rise beyond a certain threshold. Its job is to instruct the body to absorb that glucose where it can then be used to provide energy for various activities and/or be stored as fat.
Without insulin then, a person will find that they lack energy for their everyday tasks and they will see numerous unwanted effects from increased blood sugar. Sugar can be very destructive when it is allowed to build up, causing nerve damage, and more.
If blood sugar is not managed, then patients can risk losing limbs, losing their vision, or going into diabetic shock or diabetic coma. Dangerously high levels of blood sugar can lead to a diabetic coma which is characterized by loss of consciousness and which can be fatal.
The good news is that diabetes is highly manageable and most people with diabetes will lead happy, full, and normal lives with adjustments to their diet and the use of insulin injections and other measures. What’s crucial then, is that you are able to spot the signs of diabetes early on and then react to them before they worsen.
In this post, we will look at 16 early signs of diabetes.
Tiredness and lethargy are some of the most common and most pronounced symptoms you are likely to experience from diabetes. Your body will still be converting the food that you eat into glucose but you need insulin for that glucose to be drawn into the cells and used as energy. Without insulin, you can’t utilize all that energy that is flowing through your blood and as such, it is as though you haven’t eaten.
Those with diabetes might find that regular tasks become more difficult and require more effort. They may feel slower and they might struggle to wake up in the mornings.
You might also feel hungry as a result of your diabetes. This is caused by the lack of energy as your body looks for other sources of fuel. The lack of useable energy will cause the body to produce a hormone called ghrelin which is associated with hunger and this can cause you to eat more.
This is potentially very dangerous, as you might find yourself seeking out more sweet foods and carbs in a bid to try and get the energy you require – not realizing that you are elevating your blood sugar to dangerous degrees. This is one more reason that you need to be vigilant when looking out for those early signs of diabetes.
Another of the earliest signs of diabetes is constant urination. This can be a sign that the body is trying to remove sugar from the system.
More specifically, what is happening is that the kidneys are not able to bring all of the sugar in. This causes the system to make more urine. You might find that you urinate more each time you go to the toilet and that you go more frequently as well.
Consider that most people will urinate around four to seven times in a twenty-four hour period. There are other reasons for going more frequently, however. For instance, consuming excess protein or using a multivitamin can cause you to urinate more frequently, as can a host of other conditions.
As you start to urinate more frequently, you might also find that you feel thirstier than usual. This is because you are making yourself dehydrated by urinating so often and your body is thus telling you to seek out more fluids. You might find that you can’t go to sleep without a glass of water by the bed and that you wake up in the morning very thirsty.
Again, there are other causes for thirstiness and so it’s important to consider all these symptoms together rather than looking at them in an isolated fashion.
5. Blurred Vision
In the short term, blurred vision can occur as a result of changes in the fluid levels in your body. This can cause the lenses in your eyes to literally swell up, creating a blurry vision, and making it hard for you to focus on things in the world around you.
Later on, your vision might also start to become damaged by the high blood sugar damaging nerves around the eyes. If this is allowed to continue, it can eventually lead to complete vision loss. This is one more reason it is so important to find out early on if you are suffering from diabetes and to get medical assistance if so.
An increase in sugar can cause damage to nerves including those in your brain. The result might be a headache.
What’s more, is that dehydration can cause the brain to physically shrink like a sponge. This in turn causes it to pull away from the inside of the skull, which causes headaches.
Meanwhile, a lack of blood sugar making it into the brain can begin to damage its ability to perform a range of important functions. The result is that you can find yourself with brain fog and finding it difficult to concentrate.
Diabetes can trigger insomnia and difficulty sleeping as a secondary effect due to a number of different processes.
For starters, you are more likely to experience nocturnal enuresis, meaning that you will wake up in the night needing to vacate your bladder. This of course interrupts sleep and prevents you from being properly rested.
Likewise, a lack of cellular energy, high blood sugar, and dehydration can all also make it difficult to sleep.
8. Mood Changes
Similarly, there are a number of ways in which diabetes can lead to mood changes. This can be the result of changes in blood sugar, which are closely linked to our production of hormones and neurotransmitters such as cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) as well as serotonin (the ‘happiness hormone’).
With these chemicals disrupted, you might find yourself feeling uncharacteristically anxious, snapping at people or feeling low on motivation, and perhaps experiencing symptoms of depression.
Behavioral and mood changes are something that too often gets overlooked or written off as having benign causes. We think we ‘just got out the wrong side of the bed’. In reality, mood changes can be a sign of a number of serious problems potentially, so it is important to check them out.
9. Yeast Infection
At this point, we are starting to get more toward the slightly later-stage signs of diabetes. One sign is that you can begin to develop yeast infections. Both men and women can experience yeast infections, but it is slightly more common for women.
This happens because the yeast feeds on the glucose and as this is elevated in your system, so too is the likelihood of infection. Yeast infections are likely to be found in the warmer, moister folds of the skin such as under the breasts or between the fingers.
10. Slow Healing
Slow healing can be a symptom of a number of conditions, but one of the more common explanations is diabetes. This is caused by blood sugar impacting your blood flow and at the same time causing nerve damage, making it harder for you to heal wounds.
If you have a cut and it doesn’t appear to be getting better at the normal rate, then consider if you might have any other symptoms or signs that point to diabetes.
11. Pain and Numbers in the Feet and Legs
This can also occur as a result of impaired blood flow and nerve damage. You might find that your legs and feet, in particular, feel uncomfortable or sore, or that they are numb or tingling.
It’s a little like a milder version of the sensation you get in your arm after lying on it all night. This is an important sign to look out for, as it can lead to amputation if you don’t catch it early.
12. Weight Loss
This is particularly common with type 1 diabetes but can occur with any form of diabetes. What is happening here, is that the body is going to need to look to other sources of energy when it can’t get it from the sugar and the blood.
Commonly, this means burning fat and it means burning muscle. Thus you might experience rapid weight loss or changes in weight despite not having a changed diet. Again, weight loss can have many causes though so always consider the broader context of the symptoms.
13. Changes in Heart Rate
As your blood becomes saturated with sugar, this can cause changes in consistency and texture, which in turn means that the heart will need to start working differently in order to pump it around the body.
This can once again indicate a number of different conditions, however.
Nausea and vomiting are common signs of diabetes as it begins to progress. The reason for this is that the body is starting to produce ‘ketones’ as it burns fat. Ketones are an alternative form of energy that the body can use when sugar isn’t available.
While this is fine in small doses and even good for us, large amounts of ketones can be dangerous and will eventually begin to be evacuated from the system as you start feeling the urge to empty your stomach.
15. Risk Factors
This is not a symptom but is something to consider if you think you may have diabetes: risk factors. Risk factors are things that make you more or less likely to get diabetes. It is important to think about these because it might color your interpretation of the symptoms.
For example, you are more likely to experience diabetes if you are overweight. You are also more likely to get diabetes if you eat a diet that is rich in sugary foods and carbs. What this does is to consistently flood the body with sugars, which then must be absorbed into the bloodstream. As this repeats over and over, you will eventually become less sensitive to insulin, eventually resulting in low insulin sensitivity and type 2 diabetes. Some ethnic backgrounds also make you more or less likely to get diabetes.
16. Family History
Finally, recognize that there is a genetic element to diabetes, meaning that if a parent of yours was diabetic, then you are at an increased risk of becoming diabetic.
Considering such factors is not only important during an early self-diagnosis, but is also useful when trying to protect against diabetes. Knowing you have a higher risk of diabetes can be enough to help motivate you to avoid eating lots of sugary foods and to help you lookout for the earliest signs that you might have a problem yourself.