10 Symptoms of Diabetes You Should Never Ignore

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are widespread diseases. Below are 10 symptoms of diabetes that you should take seriously, as some may lead to irreversible changes in your body.

Type 1 diabetes involves a lack of insulin production while Type 2 is classified as the inability of the body to use insulin, known as insulin resistance. Insulin is a vital hormone secreted by the beta cells of an organ called the pancreas. It increases in response to blood glucose levels when food is ingested, allowing the body’s tissues to take up the glucose to use as energy. This causes the blood glucose to go back to its normal level.

When the insulin pathway is disrupted, glucose remains in the bloodstream but the tissues essentially starve due their lack of glucose uptake. This can cause an array of symptoms as the entire body becomes imbalanced and has to work extra hard to keep things in check. In Type 1 diabetes, the symptoms typically develop rather suddenly and prominently while those in Type 2 diabetes may be a bit harder to detect.

10. Frequent urination

When there’s excess glucose in the blood, the body reacts by trying to get everything back in balance. First, the excess blood glucose soaks up water from the body’s tissues into the bloodstream (through osmosis) in an attempt to equalize the concentration of glucose in the blood to that in the cell. Meanwhile, the kidneys are working overtime to filter out and absorb the extra glucose.

However, if the kidneys can’t keep up, the glucose (along with fluids) is eventually flushed out of the system, through urine. This results in the need to produce more urine and urinate more frequently than usual, including waking up to go during the night. The most effective way to keep frequent urination due to diabetes under control is to control your blood sugar through diet and medication.

9. Excessive thirst

Due to the frequent urination caused by excess glucose in the blood, the body loses a large amount of fluids and becomes dehydrated. The receptors in the brain that detect the level of dehydration of the blood are known as osmoreceptors. These trigger thirst signals which, in turn, create an urge to drink fluids.

Though excessive thirst may be a symptom of other conditions (like the common cold or allergies), it can be a good indicator of diabetes when accompanied by the other symptoms on this list. It is important for diabetics and pre-diabetics to drink lots of water (and not sugary drinks) to help their kidneys excrete excess sugar and to prevent dehydration, which in itself is dangerous.

8. Blurred vision

Dehydration can lead to many problems. When high blood glucose causes fluid from the cells to be pulled into the bloodstream, the effect occurs throughout the body, including in the eyes. When the lens of the eye gets dried out, it loses its ability to focus, causing blurred vision. Chronic high blood glucose, can also lead to retinopathy, or damage to the back of the eye that can affect vision and may even lead to blindness.

7. Increased hunger

It may seem confusing that someone with high blood glucose is constantly hungry. However, the issue in this case isn’t the glucose levels itself, but the body’s inability to utilize the sugar for energy purposes.

Since diabetics have no insulin or insulin resistance, this results in the inability to take up glucose into the tissues. The tissues essentially starve and send out hunger signals to the brain. This leads the individual to eat more, causing blood glucose to rise even more. Clearly, this can be a vicious cycle if it isn’t controlled.

6. Weight loss

Although one might easily believe that the symptom of increased hunger will lead to weight gain, this simply isn’t the case with diabetes.

There are several reasons why diabetics experience weight loss. One reason has to do with excess urination caused by high blood glucose. Since the body is losing large amounts of fluids (which also happens to be high in calories), it will weigh less. Also, when the body’s tissues are unable to metabolize glucose, they switch to burning fat for energy. This will obviously cause weight loss, as it is essentially what you do when you exercise.

5. Slow-healing wounds

High blood glucose impairs a few processes required for wound healing. For example, it disrupts the body’s signaling system which directs neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, to the site of injury. Neutrophils normally help the healing process by removing debris from the site of the wound and cleansing the wound. High blood sugar can also disrupt oxygen supplies to the site of the wound by causing nerve damage or blood vessel disease. This results in a slowing down of the wound-healing process.

4. Loss of concentration

Your brain is composed of tissues just like the rest of your body. In fact, the brain’s tissues are a bit needier than your other tissues, using up to 25% of the glucose you consume. When the brain cannot take up glucose due to insufficient insulin, it begins to function poorly. The result is difficulty remembering, thinking and concentrating. Though there are mixed results, some studies have even shown that the longer you have diabetes, the higher the risk of developing dementia.

In addition, the high glucose characteristic of diabetes can cause nerve damage throughout the body, including the brain. This is why it’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of diabetes so that you can begin treatment before permanent damage is done.

3. Infections

Diabetics often experience higher incidences of infection than non-diabetics, especially in the skin and urinary tract. The skin infections can affect any skin surface but typically target the feet area. Diabetes can lead to infections in many different ways. Bacteria and yeast love glucose, so these microbes have the opportunity to thrive in diabetics.

Urinary tract infections, in particular, are also common in people with diabetes. This is because chronic high blood glucose can lead to a complication in which the bladder cannot contract or empty, completely. The residual urine in the bladder provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Eating yogurt with probiotics and of course, keeping your blood glucose levels under control may help to treat this type of infection.

2. Tiredness

When blood glucose is high, it means that the cells are not getting the energy they need, as they can’t take up the glucose. This results in a lowering of energy and therefore a feeling of tiredness. This may be exacerbated by lack of sleep due to waking up during the night to urinate. It is important to get tested for diabetes if you are experiencing this symptom along with some others on this list. Some people try to fight their tiredness by eating something sweet, but this makes the problem worse by raising blood glucose levels.

1. Constipation or Diarrhea

High blood glucose can lead to nerve damage throughout the body. However, if it occurs in the small intestine, this can lead to dysfunction in the small intestine’s ability to digest, leading to delayed emptying into the large intestine. This causes fluids to stand still in the small intestine, allowing bacteria to flourish. These bacteria can cause bloating and diarrhea.

Alternatively, the nerve damage may lead to dysfunction in the large intestine, slowing the movement of waste through it. This causes the waste to dry out as it loses water along the way. This results in constipation.

To help treat either of these conditions, it is recommended that you stay hydrated, exercise and eat healthy. To relieve constipation, especially, a high fiber diet can help your digestive system to function more smoothly.

CHAjAMP / Shutterstock.com

CHAjAMP / Shutterstock.com

Feb 24, 2016