Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition where your body has difficulties processing glucose. In the United States, diabetes mellitus has reached epic proportions; currently, more than 34 million people living with diabetes, and about one-third of those people are unaware that they are diabetic.
Another 85 million people in the U.S. are pre-diabetic, meaning that if they don’t change some unhealthy habits, they will develop diabetes in the future. Concerned you’re at risk of developing diabetes? Consider these 10 early warning signs.
Individuals with diabetes mellitus have trouble processing glucose and, therefore, often have extra glucose in their blood, which forces their kidneys to work harder to filter that sugar out. This causes increased urination and, in turn, increased thirst when that dehydration sets in. So, if a person notices that they are consistently much thirstier than normal, they might want to speak with a doctor.
As mentioned, folks with diabetes — or even folks who are pre-diabetic — can experience more frequent urination. The excess sugar in the blood forces one’s kidneys to work overtime, and the harder the kidneys work, the more a person will have to urinate. In extreme cases, this leads to dehydration, but it can also lead to kidney damage, or failure, over time if left untreated.
Tingling Hands & Feet
Excess sugar in the blood plays a crucial role in nerve damage. Known as diabetic neuropathy, this nerve damage occurs over time and is one of the leading causes of amputations among diabetic individuals. So, if a person notices tingling in their hands or feet — often accompanied by a burning sensation in their hands, arms, legs, or feet for an extended period of time — they should consult a doctor immediately. In most cases, the nerve damage caused by diabetic neuropathy is not reversible.
Although this one’s perhaps less expected, weight loss can be a common sign. After all, diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition, and it impacts the way one’s body uses energy. Since excess sugar builds up in the blood and is excreted in the person’s urine, this can lead to weight loss; the loss of sugar also means a loss of calories. This can also lead to increased hunger.
Slow Healing Sores
Doctors and diabetic people alike have observed for decades that sores and wounds seem to heal at a slower rate in individuals with diabetes. However, research into this phenomenon is inconclusive. One theory suggests that the excess sugar in one’s blood interferes with their body’s ability to heal wounds, but more research is needed.
As we’ve already learned, diabetes pulls fluids from tissues, causing dehydration. When fluid is pulled from the eyes, as often happens in diabetes patients, the result is an inability to focus one’s eyes.
If the diabetes is not well controlled, it can also affect the blood vessels in the eye, leading to partial vision loss over time — or, in severe cases, blindness. Those who notice sudden changes to their vision should visit their doctor immediately.
Feeling Very Hungry
As we mentioned earlier, the excess sugar that causes frequent urination and thirst also causes the excessive loss of sugar, which means that one’s body is also losing calories. While this could result in sudden weight loss, it may also leave you feeling rather hungry. In turn, this leads to increased eating, which perpetuates the cycle. That being said, excessive hunger, in combination with other symptoms we’ve listed here, should prompt a visit to the 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 dental problems, including painful swollen gums, abscesses in the mouth, the erosion of the jaw bone, and, over time, tooth loss. If someone had dental problems before developing diabetes, they may find that those problems worsen during the onset of diabetes.
As is the case with slow-healing wounds, doctors and researchers aren’t exactly sure why diabetes patients have infections more frequently. To date, we know that diabetes impacts the body’s ability to fight off infections, and, because of this, those who have diabetes may find themselves ill more frequently.
Some of the most common types of infections that diabetic folks experience are urinary tract infections and vaginal infections. Doctors suspect that the excessive glucose in one’s urine can contribute to these particular infections.
No matter the condition, when the body isn’t functioning as it once did, fatigue will almost always set in. In the case of diabetes patients, fatigue may stem from both the loss of sugar and one’s kidneys working overtime. While fatigue alone isn’t a definitive sign of diabetes, it can be if it accompanies these other warning signs.
Remember: The quicker diabetes mellitus is diagnosed, the earlier one can start treatment. With this in mind, be on the lookout for these early warning signs of diabetes.
- “Diabetes mellitus: The epidemic of the century” via World Journal of Diabetes, U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Differentiation of Diabetes by Pathophysiology, Natural History, and Prognosis” via American Diabetes Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Pathophysiology of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus” via International Journal of Molecular Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Type 2 diabetes and quality of life” via World Journal of Diabetes, U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Effect of diet on type 2 diabetes mellitus: A review” via International Journal of Health Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine