Of the 34.2 million people living with diabetes in the United States, a whopping 21.4% are living undiagnosed. Add in the fact that more than 88 million adults have prediabetes – that’s nearly 35% of the adult population – and you can see that diagnosing diabetes is a less-than-perfect process.
Although the condition is chronic and potentially deadly, the signs of diabetes aren’t always easy to spot. The earliest symptoms are often subtle and easy to shrug away, leaving many patients shocked when they receive a diabetes diagnosis.
Unfortunately, undiscovered diabetes can (and does) cause serious damage to the body, even if it doesn’t cause severe symptoms. To help you decide if it’s time to discuss diabetes with your doctor, here are some early diabetes warning signs you shouldn’t ignore.
People with diabetes have excessive amounts of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Your kidneys work overtime to compensate, filtering the blood and flushing out the extra sugar as urine. If your blood sugar levels are elevated, you may find yourself trotting to the toilet all the time.
Of course, there is no “correct” amount of bathroom breaks – but if the urge to go is waking you up at night or causing dehydration, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Of course, frequent urination means less fluid in the body – a dangerous condition that can lead to dehydration. As your body draws and flushes fluids through the urine, your brain sends the “thirsty” signal to encourage rehydration. This can cause an insatiable thirst that can’t be quenched no matter how much you drink. You may also experience chronic dry mouth or decreased saliva production.
Vision changes are a common sign of aging, but sudden or severe vision symptoms may signal early diabetes. It’s typically caused by spikes in blood sugar, which cause the lens inside your eye to swell and change shape. Low blood sugar can also lead to blurry vision due to temporary changes in brain function. In either case, blurry vision is usually temporary and will return to normal once your blood sugar levels are under control – though it can lead to permanent blindness if left untreated.
Wounds that won’t heal
If your scrapes and cuts are slow to scab over, it could be a sign to talk to your doctor about diabetes. High blood sugar can lead to poor blood circulation and nerve damage (neuropathy), which makes it harder for the body to repair itself. People with diabetes are at increased risk for gangrene and limb amputation, so take any slow-healing spots seriously.
Don’t blame antibiotic resistance just yet – diabetes may be to blame for your frequent UTIs or chronic yeast infections. Prolonged levels of high blood sugar can damage the kidneys and weaken the immune system, leaving your body vulnerable to recurring infections.