Diabetes is a growing problem in the United States. Around 17 million Americans are diabetic, which is approximately six per cent of the population. The people who are most at risk of type 2 diabetes are those of African-American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American heritage. At least a third of people with diabetes do not even know that they have the condition. What are the diabetes signs that you should be aware of?
1. You are frequently thirsty
Being thirsty a lot is one of the diabetes signs that you should be looking out for. It is usually one of the first indications of type 2 diabetes. The thirst is usually a continuous one.
There are two main types of diabetes. With diabetes insipidus, excessive thirst occurs when there is a reduction in the hormone that controls the excretion of water within your body. This causes your kidneys to excrete too much water, which causes you to become dehydrated. This is why you feel the need to drink more to compensate. Thirst also occurs when too much sugar is forced into the blood. This causes you to urinate more frequently. With diabetes mellitus, excess glucose in the blood causes too much water to be drawn out of your tissues, which makes you dehydrated. To combat this, you drink more fluid, which again leads to frequent urination. In both cases, if your excessive thirst is a sign of diabetes, you will often need to wake up during the night because you are thirsty.
2. You need the toilet a lot
Frequent urination is another diabetes sign. Most people only need to urinate a few times every day, but diabetics are likely to need to urinate far more frequently. This happens because excess sugar in your blood causes your body to become dehydrated. Your body encourages you to drink more fluid to counteract this, which is why you need to use the toilet a lot. It can indicate type 2 diabetes.
3. Your mouth is dry
A dry mouth can also be something to consider when looking for diabetes signs. Your sugar levels are increased as a result of diabetes, and this can affect your oral hygiene. Common complaints are gum disease, cavities, dry mouth, and even loss of teeth, although the latter is fairly rare. Ironically, these can make your diabetes more difficult to control, as oral infections make your sugar levels increase further, and more insulin is needed to stop this. Diabetes also decreases your ability to taste sweet things, which often means that you feel the need to add sweeteners to your food as compensation. This makes your sugar levels increase, as well as having a negative effect on your oral health. It is not all bad news though. Having an awareness of how diabetes can affect your oral health, and vice versa, is essential to preventing and treating complications. A dry mouth is a sign of type 1 diabetes.
4. Your vision is blurry
Blurred vision can be a type 1 diabetes sign. It is one of the first indications of eye problems that are related to diabetes. Excess sugar in the blood causes the lens to change in shape and become less flexible. This affects how well you can focus, and causes your vision to become blurred. Other problems linked to diabetes include double vision, cloudy vision and floating spots in front of the eye. Double vision happens when the nerves that control your eyes are damaged. Cloudy vision usually occurs as a result of cataracts, or when the retina becomes swollen.
5. You have cuts and other sores that take a while to heal
Wounds that are slow to heal can indicate type 2 diabetes. Having diabetes means that your body is less effective at fending off infections.
6. You experience itching in and around the vagina
Vaginal itching and burning can be a diabetes sign. It can indicate type 2 diabetes. The skin in and around the vagina may also be red and sore. This can indicate a vaginal yeast infection. Regular yeast infections (in the vagina) can be another diabetes sign. Regular in this sense means anything above three or four yeast infections per year. This can be a sign of type 2 diabetes. The yeast that is naturally present in your vagina feeds on sugar in your blood. When you are diabetic, you have too much sugar in your blood, which means that the yeast can multiply at a very rapid pace. High blood sugar also decreases your body’s ability to fight infections, and the amount of “good” bacteria in your vagina is diminished, so the yeast can easily take over. A yeast infection is an indication that your diabetes is not being adequately controlled, as your blood sugar levels are clearly too high. The symptoms include a thick, white vaginal discharge (which can be very similar to the texture of cottage cheese), which is usually accompanied by itching, burning or soreness in and around your vagina. The discharge also tends to smell unpleasant.
7. Your hands and feet feel numb and tingle
Tingling in the hands and feet is another diabetes sign, and can indicate type 2 diabetes. When there is too much sugar is your blood, it can cause nerve problems, particularly the tiny blood vessels within the nerve. This can lead to multiple problems, but the most common one is a tingling or numb feeling in the hands and feet. Other possible symptoms can include burning sensations in the feet, hands, legs and arms.
8. The skin on your neck, armpit and groin suddenly gets darker
If the skin on and around your neck, armpit or groin has become darker, it can be a sign of type 2 diabetes. It is quite rare, and affects only one in every 300 people with diabetes. It is not restricted to the neck, armpits or groin though, and it can appear anywhere on the body. It can be very unsightly if it is on an area that people will see. It can affect people who are overweight. There is no known cure for the condition, but if obesity is a deciding factor, losing weight can help to ease the symptoms. However, it can also affect people who are otherwise healthy (apart from being diabetic).
9. You have inexplicably lost or gained weight
This diabetes sign can be an indication of type 1 diabetes. Your body tries to compensate for the lost fluids by encouraging you to eat more, which is why you can put on weight when you become diabetic. On the other hand, you can also lose weight, even if you have not decreased your food intake. This is because the tissues in your muscles are not receiving enough glucose, so their growth and energy is disrupted. If you have type 1 diabetes, there is very little sugar reaching the muscles.
Many of these symptoms can also be indications of other health problems, so it is important to be tested for diabetes to rule out other conditions. A glucose test will measure the amount of glucose in your blood. This can be done by simply pricking your finger, so it is very straightforward. If you are diabetic, your doctor will advise the treatment that is needed, depending on whether you are a type 1 or type 2 diabetic.