According to the International Diabetes Federation, in 2019 approximately 463 million adults aged 20 to 79 years were suffering from diabetes worldwide. About 46.43% of these people were undiagnosed and did not know they had this disease.
This is due to the fact that these people are not aware of the diabetes symptoms and therefore, cannot recognize them when they appear. This happens in both men and women.
These undiagnosed people are living in the danger zone because the complications of diabetes can be serious and even fatal if diagnosed late. You could have kidney damage, heart damage, eye problems, neuropathy (nerve damage), and more.
Knowing the early and late symptoms and signs of undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes will keep you aware and not belong to the ignorant half.
If you experience any one of the following symptoms and signs, you must get yourself checked by your doctor.
However, sometimes you may not experience any symptoms. You may present with the complications directly.
The best way to beat the situation is to have your blood sugar checked after the age of 35 years once every six months, especially if you have a family history of diabetes and or are exposed to risk factors that make you prone to diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes usually sets in before the age of 35 years, though it can, at times, set in later. In the United States, the peak age of diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is 14 years.
Diabetes type 2 is the condition of the middle-aged and the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults aged 45 to 64 were the most diagnosed age group for type 2 in 2012.
The symptoms and signs of both Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes mellitus are similar whatever be the causes.
However, the onset of symptoms in diabetes type 1 is sudden while they are a little late in being noticed in Type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms and signs of diabetes type 1 and 2
Diabetes can present in various ways. Here is a checklist of some of the common symptoms for you to remember.
Polyuria: Frequent urination
The diabetic person frequently has to visit the toilet to pass urine, even during the night. The average person usually passes urine between four and seven times in 24 hours, but people with diabetes may go a lot more often.
Due to uncontrolled and constant high blood sugar levels and the resulting osmotic diuresis, the kidneys go into an extra drive to excrete this excess blood glucose through urine.
This leads to excessive urination because, with the excreted glucose, extra water is also removed through the urine.
Polydipsia: Excessive thirst
Loss of excess water through urine leads to significant dehydration and a concentrated bloodstream. The central nervous system then signals and makes the diabetic feel thirsty all the time.
He, therefore, drinks more water to quench his thirst. Medically, the diabetic should drink more water to make up for the excessive loss of water through urine.
Polyphagia: Excessive hunger
Even after a full meal, the patient feels hungry again. This is because the body of the diabetic cannot process the glucose and its uptake by the body cells is hindered. They, therefore, crave for food even after eating because the body cells demand it.
The above three symptoms namely polyuria, polydipsia, and polyphagia are cardinal signs of diabetes. Even if you have one of these, to begin with, you must get yourself checked by your doctor.
Diabetes and fatigue
Fatigue is extreme tiredness and is one of the commonest symptoms of diabetes. It can be quite disabling as it prevents you from doing your daily activities. There are various causes put forward as to why diabetes causes fatigue.
Why does diabetes cause fatigue?
Firstly, due to constant high blood sugar levels, the blood vessels are inflamed. This activates the immune cells called monocytes, which travel to the brain making you feel tired.
Secondly, due to high blood sugar levels, the blood becomes more viscous. This slows down the circulation, which results in less supply of blood and nutrients to the body cells.
Thirdly, in type 2 diabetes, the uptake of glucose by the body cells is hindered and this causes fatigue because your body cells need glucose for energy.
In type 1 diabetes, stronger medication like insulin can cause the blood glucose to drop resulting in low blood glucose levels. This can also cause extreme tiredness,
Dehydration is commonly seen in such patients. This can be another cause of fatigue.
Nausea and vomiting
Diabetes patients commonly experience nausea and vomiting. This happens because these patients develop gastroparesis in which the muscles of the stomach develop weakness causing the stomach contents to empty out very slowly.
This is due to diabetic neuropathy in which the nerves including those of the stomach are damaged.
The rise and fall of blood glucose also disturb the metabolism and give rise to nausea and vomiting.
Delay in the healing of cuts and wounds
Non-healing of bruises, cuts, or wounds is one of the cardinal symptoms and signs of diabetes. Wounds do not heal as usual because of the high blood sugar levels that act as feasting media for bacteria, which then become difficult to control.
Secondly, the high glucose level in the blood damages the blood vessels. Due to this, the blood cannot easily reach the area of the infected wound to carry the medicines, nutrients, and immune cells required for healing.
Rapid loss of weight
Diabetics can lose a significant amount of weight in a short period. This rapid weight loss is not healthy and needs to be addressed. There can be a loss of about 20 to 30 lbs in about two to three months.
Due to excessive urination, you not only lose the extra sugar from the blood you also lose extra calories through urine, causing a calorie deficit.
Secondly, the body cells cannot take up glucose from the blood due to faulty insulin function. There is hardly any glucose in them to fulfill their energy requirements.
The body then breaks down the proteins from the muscles as an alternate source of energy. Fat cells from the fat depot are also mobilized. All this causes the muscle mass and fat depots to shrink leading to loss of weight.
Blurring of vision
Disturbed eyesight is a neurological symptom — meaning because of nerve damage. The high level of glucose in the blood makes the blood thicker. It draws out fluid from the tissues including the eye lens.
This changes the shape of the lens and you cannot focus properly. The eyesight is disturbed and causes blurred vision.
This is temporary and the vision corrects itself after the blood glucose comes to normal. Prolonged and unattended high blood sugar levels can cause permanent damage to the eye and can lead to blindness.
Diabetics may be twice as likely to develop cataracts as compared to nondiabetics. High sugar levels in the aqueous humor are responsible for the development of cataracts.
Tingling and numbness in both the upper and lower extremities
Diabetic neuropathy is a common occurrence among diabetics and is characterized by damage to the nerves in the body due to excess sugar levels.
This produces tingling and numbness of both hands and feet. You may also feel the burning sensation in your arms, hands, legs, and feet.
In elderly diabetic people, there is a type of slow muscle atrophy in which the muscles of the shoulders and hips waste away.
This is called “limb-girdle wasting.” This loss of muscle spreads slowly and is difficult to manage.
Diabetes and anger
Diabetes can cause you to feel angry at the slightest provocation. You are aware of the limitations this disease has imposed on your lifestyle.
You are also aware of its serious complications. This plays on your psychology and burdens you all the time.
You feel victimized and emotions will vary around mood swings, anger, anxiety, self-guilt, and depression.
Diabetes and pain
Diabetes patients suffer from chronic pain such as backache, headache, and pain in the upper and lower extremities due to neuropathy.
This chronic pain persists for more than six months and is felt every day. It is of moderate to severe degree, which interferes with your everyday activities.
The chance of diabetics experiencing such pain is up to 60% higher than non-diabetics.
Diabetes and bad breath problems
Your breath can tell a lot of things about your health problems. Diabetics suffer from different types of breath problems depending on the condition of the disease and the onset of its complications.
A sweet fruity breath can be a diabetes sign. An ammonia odor can be a sign of a kidney complication. A very foul fruit odor may be a sign of anorexia nervosa.
Diabetes-related bad breath (halitosis) can be due to periodontal disease (gum disease),.
Diabetes can also raise ketone levels in the blood, which is a dangerous complication. This, too, can cause foul breath.
Diabetes causes hair loss
Hair loss is one of the early signs of prediabetes and diabetes types 1 and 2. Various reasons explain the cause of this symptom.
- Emotional and physical stress
- Fluctuating hormone levels negatively impact hair growth
- Poor blood circulation due to damage to the blood vessels caused by diabetes deprives the hair follicles of nutrition.
- Medications taken for other conditions such as high cholesterol can cause you to lose hair. High cholesterol and diabetes often co-exist.
- Rapid weight loss, which often occurs in diabetics invariably, leads to hair loss.
- Thyroid disease, another common complication of diabetes, can lead to hair loss.
Diabetics can develop hypoglycemia (low sugar levels) at night, which can cause nighttime sweats. There are various reasons why this can happen.
- An increased dose of insulin
- A day of strenuous physical activity
- Consumption of alcohol
- A missed out night snack
Some of these 15 symptoms and signs appear early on in the course of diabetes, while others appear late. You may not experience all of them and at times none at all.
But, the disease keeps on progressing and can present very late after its life-threatening complications have set in. That is why diabetes is called the “silent killer”.
Knowing its symptoms is a must especially due to the fact that diabetes ranks 7th as the leading cause of death worldwide.