13 Early Warning Signs of Diabetes

Looking at the latest statistics, diabetes is frighteningly common in the United States, but what’s even scarier is how many men, women, and children may be living with the disease and don’t even know it.

Of the estimated 30 million Americans living with diabetes, a whopping 25 percent aren’t aware that they have it, according to the CDC (1). This is probably because the symptoms of diabetes are often subtle. Left untreated, though, the disease can wreak havoc on the body.

Read on for 12 symptoms of diabetes that should be on your radar…

You Need to Pee. All. The. Time

Frequent and excess urination is a classic symptom of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It’s called polyuria, which is the frequent passage of large volumes of urine – generally, more than 3 liters a day.

When a person has diabetes, excess sugar (glucose) accumulates in the blood, and the kidneys need to work harder to filter and absorb it effectively. This excess sugar is expelled into the urine if your kidneys can’t keep up, along with fluids from your body’s tissues.

If you notice that you are suddenly peeing more often for no apparent reason – especially if you’re waking up from sleep several times to take a whiz – then it’s time to investigate. Talk to your doctor about it, and be sure to mention any other new symptoms.

You’re Constantly Thirsty

With abnormal and frequent urination, dehydration becomes a real possibility. And to make matters worse, people who don’t know they have diabetes often quench their thirst with sugary drinks.

Signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, and dry mouth. In fact, dehydration is normally accompanied by temporary or prolonged mouth dryness. You will urinate even more as you consume more fluids to satisfy your excessive thirst (polydipsia).

Feeling thirsty at various times of the day is normal, and an adequate water intake is important since water is essential for many bodily functions. However, if you are thirsty all the time and/or your thirst continues after drinking, it can be a sign of a problem.

Your Breath Reeks

The mouth dryness that may occur from dehydration with diabetes can cause bad breath (halitosis). With a dry mouth, there isn’t enough saliva to wash away bacteria and balance oral pH levels.

Diabetes-related halitosis can result from gum diseases such as gingivitis and mild or advanced periodontitis. Gingivitis is a common periodontal disease that causes gum irritation, redness, and swelling. In some cases, it progresses to periodontitis, which is more serious.

High levels of ketones in the blood from diabetes can also contribute to halitosis. When cells don’t receive enough glucose for energy due to an inability to produce insulin, the body burns fat instead. This produces ketones that build up in the blood and cause bad breath.

You Can’t See Well

Commonly, diabetes affects an individual’s eyesight, causing blurry or impaired vision. This often prompts people to visit their optometrist to get a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses.

Diabetes can have short-term and long-term effects on the eyes. In the short term, visual impairment can occur if fluid is pulled from the eye, causing the eye’s lens to swell up. Blurriness can result from this swelling as the shape of the lens changes to some degree.

In the long term, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage small blood vessels in or around the eye, causing problems with the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive membrane that lines the inner surface of the back of the eyeball. Retinal issues can cause blurred vision.

Your Hands and Feet Get Numb

Sensations of numbness, tingling, and burning in the extremities can be a symptom of diabetes. It can occur if an individual develops diabetic neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage caused by diabetes.

The most common neuropathy caused by diabetes is peripheral neuropathy. It typically affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and the arms. There may also be other symptoms. Peripheral neuropathy symptoms tend to occur and worsen at night.

Diabetic neuropathy, apart from causing discomfort, can lead to numerous complications. Some of these can be serious, so consult a medical professional if you experience ongoing numbness and tingling. Complications include joint damage, infections, and gangrene.

You Have Random, Slow-Healing Wounds

Reduced sensation in the extremities from diabetes makes you more susceptible to injuries. You are less likely to notice cuts, scratches, scrapes, and bruises on the arms, legs, feet, and hands, and because you can’t feel the wounds, they’re more likely to get infected.

Moreover, when you injure yourself with diabetes, wounds can take a lot longer to heal than they normally would. Neuropathy (nerve damage) and poor blood circulation can make it hard for blood that is needed for skin repair to reach areas that are affected by wounds.

Unexplained, slow-healing wounds are a known symptom of diabetes that should not be ignored. Brushing off this symptom increases the risk of infections, amputation, and other health problems.

You’re Dropping Pounds – Without Trying

Losing weight without trying is an indicator that something isn’t right inside the body. If you’ve lost 10 pounds or more over a period of 6 to 12 months without any changes to your diet and lifestyle, then the underlying problem could be type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

In men and women who have diabetes mellitus, a lack of the essential hormone insulin can prevent the body from moving glucose from the blood into the body’s cells to be used as energy. When this occurs, the body naturally begins to burn fat and muscle for energy.

At the same time, frequent and excessive urination from diabetes – if it occurs – may cause a person to lose sugar and calories. These effects combined can lead to rapid, “unexplained” weight loss.

You’re Crazy-Tired

Carbohydrates (carbs), which the body breaks down into glucose, are your body’s main source of energy. But, the body can’t use that energy source effectively if you have diabetes, which can result in extreme tiredness. Diabetes-related dehydration can also bring on fatigue.

Of course, diabetes isn’t always the cause of fatigue. There are literally hundreds of health conditions that can cause this symptom. Most people feel exhausted because they eat unhealthily, have high-stress levels, and do not sleep or exercise enough.

If you’re constantly tired and lethargic with low energy levels and can’t pinpoint why you might want to get this checked out by a doctor. Especially if you have other diabetes symptoms.

There’s Yeast Down There

There is a connection between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and vaginal yeast infections. Research studies have shown to pay attention to recurring problems in the genital area if you are a woman.

Glucose is fuel for yeast, and high blood sugar creates an environment in the vagina that allows yeast to overgrow. This can result in yeast infections, or candidiasis, which is characterized by genital itching and burning and a “cottage cheese-like” discharge from the vagina.

Candidiasis can have other causes other than diabetes. These include having a compromised immune system, engaging in sexual activity, and undergoing some types of hormone therapy. Taking birth control pills and certain antibiotics can also cause yeast infections.

You Have Skin Discolorations

Darkening skin around the nape of your neck and under the armpits is a common early sign of insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes. This often occurs in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are at an increased risk of experiencing insulin issues. Moreover, the skin underneath the arms is relatively thick and encounters regular contact friction, so if you are dehydrated, the skin there will likely show it.

Applying lotion regularly and consulting a dermatologist should be your first steps when your skin appears ashy. But if your dry, discolored skin won’t go back to its original healthy state or you have other signs of diabetes, then talk to your primary care physician.

You’re Always Hungry

We all get hungry. It’s a normal response to vigorous exercise, increased physical activity, and going without a meal for several hours. Feeling ravenous all the time, however, is not normal.

Constant extreme hunger can be a symptom of stress and depression. It can also be a symptom of serious health problems like type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The only way to find the cause is to consult a doctor and undergo an evaluation that may include a series of tests.

With diabetes, extreme hunger can occur when your muscles don’t get the energy they need from food. Insulin resistance keeps glucose from entering muscles and providing energy. In response, the muscles and other tissues keep sending hunger messages to the brain.

You Get Headaches Often

Could type 1 or type 2 diabetes be to blame for the regular headaches that you experience? While there are many potential headache causes, diabetes has been known to cause headaches in some people.

Headaches related to diabetes generally occur due to changes in blood sugar levels. They can affect diabetics (and prediabetics) when blood sugar is too high or too low. The more blood glucose levels fluctuate, the more likely it is that one will experience headaches.

According to medical researchers, fluctuations in blood glucose are caused by changes in hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. These hormones are thought to cause blood vessel constriction, specifically the constriction of blood vessels in the brain.

You’re Moody and Grumpy

When your blood sugar is out of whack, you may not feel very well, and as a result, you may become short-tempered. As a matter of fact, high blood sugar can cause a variety of mood-related symptoms.

Diabetes can make a person feel tired, anxious, and irritable. It can also make you feel depressed and listless. Some men and women even feel like they need to be treated for depression. These symptoms usually subside, though, when blood sugar normalizes.

Crankiness is something that most people experience from time to time, especially as they get older. But if you’re relatively young and healthy and regularly experience agitation, anxiety, and mood changes, then it should be medically evaluated to rule out diabetes.