The earliest symptoms of diabetes are the ones that come from having too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually much more severe, and happen much more quickly, within a few days or a few weeks. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes, though, can go unnoticed until additional dangerous and chronic health issues occur.
There are some common symptoms that people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes both share, and alone, they can be so subtle that they seem like minor annoyances rather than symptoms if you notice them at all. The majority of people currently living with diabetes don’t even know that they have the disease, which is incredibly dangerous, because this means that the disease will likely have to progress into a more serious form before they begin to manage it.
To avoid more serious complications, it’s important to diagnose diabetes early on. Here is a list of 8 first warning signs of diabetes, so that you can catch it early.
Numbness in the fingers or toes, hands and feet, can be an early sign of diabetes. It often starts as a slight tingle, or maybe a prickle or slight pain. The feeling is the result of an increase in blood sugar causing blood vessel restriction. This eventually damages nerve fibers. As the feeling progresses, it can become extremely painful, impede motor function and, in extreme cases, eventually necessitate amputation.
2. Extreme hunger
People with diabetes often feel hungry no matter how much they’ve already eaten, because their body isn’t able to extract enough energy from the food they are eating. Your body needs insulin to transform glucose into usable energy, and if your body is insulin resistant or isn’t producing enough insulin, it won’t be able to get energy from food. This can cause your muscles and tissues to send signal to your brain that you are hungry, to try to get you to eat more so that they can get the energy they need. We’ve provided some more info on how to eat as a diabetic here.
3. Unexplained weight loss
People with uncontrolled diabetes who are eating normally, or even eating more than usual, might lose weight quickly and without explanation. No matter how much you eat, if your body isn’t extracting the energy it needs from glucose in food, it will get that energy from other places in the body. When your body starts breaking down your fat and protein stores, you’ll lose weight, and the more your body uses, the faster you’ll lose. The more serious diabetes becomes, the faster you’ll lose weight.
Your body gets most of its energy by using insulin to convert the glucose in food into something it can use. Diabetics are unable to do this, which can lead to low energy and fatigue, ranging from general tiredness to debilitating exhaustion.
Fatigue, chronic hunger, and unexplained weight loss are all related symptoms, which operate in tandem. One alone may seem like no big deal, but if you’re experiencing more than one of these symptoms at the same time, consult with your doctor for a blood sugar test. These symptoms can also sometimes be attributed to depression and there are numerous studies that suggest a link.
5. Frequent thirst
When your blood sugar rises, your body tries to dilute the sugar in your bloodstream by pulling fluid from other tissues. This can make you dehydrated, and you might still feel thirsty no matter how much you drink. Until you can regulate your blood sugar, your body will continue this dehydrating process, leading you to drink more and more water.
Diabetics often need to urinate more often, and not just because of the extra water they drink. When your blood sugar is too high, your kidneys won’t be able to reabsorb all the sugar. Your body will produce more urine to flush it out, which is also dehydrating, and will make you thirsty.
Increased thirst and frequent urination are both extremely common symptom of diabetes, and like hunger, fatigue, and weight loss, often coincide and operate cyclically. The dehydration you experience as a result of high blood sugar and increased urination can also cause side effects like dry mouth and itchy skin.
6. Blurry vision
Blurry vision can be caused by high blood sugar levels. Rising levels damage blood vessels and restrict fluid to the eyes, causing swelling. This changes the shape of your eyes and makes it difficult to focus. Though this condition is different from diabetic retinopathy, which is a leading cause of blindness in adults, it should be considered an early warning sign that your vision could be at risk. Luckily, if your blurry vision is just an early symptom, it should vanish once your blood sugar normalizes.
7. Chronic Infections
Diabetics have a harder time fighting off infections, because bacteria love sugar, and people with high blood glucose provide the perfect environment for bacterial growth. Bladder infections are especially common, as the body tries to flush all that extra sugar out through the excretory system as urine. Unfortunately, some people don’t notice bladder infections until they’ve already become kidney infections, which are more serious.
Diabetic women often suffer from frequent yeast infections, partly because yeast, like bacteria, thrives in sugary environments. And as the blood vessels and nerves in the feet and toes become damaged, foot infections can become a bigger risk.
Once infections like these are present, it can be difficult for your body to heal, because diabetes suppresses the immune system. High blood sugar levels can also harm your white blood cells, which are the body’s front line against infection. This is part of why it’s so important to monitor your body’s health closely, to prevent problems before they occur, lest they get out of hand too quickly.
8. Dark Patches of Skin
Diabetes can cause a range of skin conditions ranging from the dryness and itchiness mentioned previously that are a result of dehydration, to a condition called acanthosis nigricans. Acanthosis nigricans presents itself as dark patches of soft, velvety skin that typically appear in the folds and creases of the body like elbows and knees or armpits.
Acanthosis nigricans occurs in insulin-resistant diabetics when the kidneys are producing the hormone insulin but the body is unable to use it properly. Insulin and glucose build up in the blood, and skin cells start reproducing more rapidly, which results in skin patches that appear dark.
Catch it Early
If you have any of these symptoms, and especially if you have more than one, visit your doctor to test for diabetes. Catching the disease when it starts presenting early symptoms like these, which are largely reversible, is the first step to controlling it, so you avoid developing more serious symptoms altogether.
For more information about diabetes, read more here.