Diabetes is a medical condition that has reached epic proportions in the United States. There are more than 25 million people living with diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association, and about one third of those people are unaware that they are diabetic. Another 79 million people are pre-diabetic, meaning if they don't make some healthy changes in their lives, they will develop diabetes. Here are some of the early warning signs of diabetes.
Those who suffer from diabetes have extra sugar in their blood, forcing the kidneys to work harder to filter the sugar out of the blood. This causes increased urination and then increased thirst when dehydration results. So if a person notices that he is substantially thirstier than normal, he might want to visit the doctor.
Tingling Hands And Feet
Excess sugar in the blood plays a major role in nerve damage, a condition called Diabetic Neuropathy. This nerve damage is one of the main causes of amputations among diabetics. So if a person notices tingling in her hands or feet, or if she is experiencing a burning sensation in her hands, arms, legs or feet for an extended period of time, she should definitely consult a doctor. The nerve damage is not reversible in most cases.
For more information on pain or tingling in the extremities, see Diabetic Foot Pain And Complications.)
Diabetes is considered a metabolic condition and it affects the way the body uses energy. Because excess sugar builds up in the blood and is excreted in the person's urine, this can lead to weight loss because the loss of sugar also means the loss of calories. So while the body is losing sugar, it's also losing weight. The constant excretion of sugar into the urine will also lead to increased hunger.
As mentioned earlier, the excess sugar in the body that is the hallmark of diabetes forces the kidneys to work overtime to rid the body of that sugar. The harder the kidneys work, the more a person will have to urinate. This can lead to dehydration and increased thirst. It can also lead to kidney damage and even kidney failure over time if left untreated.
Slow Healing Sores
This symptom is somewhat of a mystery. Doctors and diabetics alike have observed for decades that sores and wounds seem to heal at an extremely slow rate. However, research into this phenomenon is inconclusive. No one really knows why it is, but it has been observed that people who are diabetic don't heal as quickly. One theory is that the excess sugar in the blood interferes with the body's ability to heal, but more research is needed in this area.
As we've already learned, diabetes pulls fluids from tissues, causing dehydration. When fluid is pulled from the eye, as often happens in diabetes patients, the result is an inability to focus the eyes. Over time if the diabetes is not well controlled, it can affect the blood vessels in the eye leading to partial vision loss or total blindness. If a person notices that their vision suddenly changes, it is always a cause for concern and should be checked out.
To learn more about vision problems amongst diabetics, see Diabetic Eye Disease: How Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision.)
Feeling Very Hungry
As we mentioned earlier, the excess sugar that causes frequent urination also causes the excessive loss of sugar, which means that the body is also losing calories which accounts for a sudden drop in weight. But this loss of calories also leaves the body feeling very hungry, which leads to more eating, thus perpetuating the cycle. So feeling excessively hungry all the time, along with the other symptoms on our list, should prompt someone to visit their doctor.
Diabetes weakens the body's ability to fight off germs, many of which enter the body through the mouth. This can cause a whole host of problems with the mouth including painful swollen gums, the erosion of the jaw bone, and over time, tooth loss. Abscesses in the mouth are also possible. If someone had dental problems before developing diabetes, they could find that those problems get significantly worse.
Just like slow healing wounds, this one is kind of a mystery. Doctors and researchers aren't exactly sure how it happens, only that diabetes affects the body's ability to fight off infections. Because of this, those who have diabetes may find themselves ill, frequently. For diabetic women, the most common types of infections are urinary tract infections and vaginal infections.
When the body isn't working right, fatigue will almost always be an issue, and so it is the case with diabetes. While fatigue alone isn't a definitive sign of diabetes, when it is combined with other warning signs on this list, it becomes significant. Fatigue is caused by a number of factors including the extra workload placed on the kidneys and the loss of sugar, which provides less fuel for the body.