Learn the early signs of diabetes. Millions of Americans have diabetes and don’t know it, and tens of millions haven’t heard that they have prediabetes.
Early signs of diabetes can be subtle, and often go unnoticed.
Of the 30 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, one in four haven’t a clue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
Another 84 million U.S. adults qualify for the diagnosis of prediabetes: they’re likely to develop diabetes within five years unless they get serious about losing weight and other changes. But only about 10 percent know this.
You’re more at risk if you have a weight problem, a family history of diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, which includes high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. Type 2 diabetes can arrive at any age, but is more common as we get older.
Make sure you hear the results of your blood sugar test from a checkup. The standard a1C test checks your average blood sugar level in the previous three months.
A normal a1C is under 5.7. You are in the prediabetes category if you test at 5.7 to 6.4. You have diabetes if you test 6.5 or more.
Early signs of diabetes in men
Also take note of these early signs of diabetes in men, which also can show up in women.
Frequent urination. As extra sugar enters your blood stream, your body tries to get rid of it in your urine, and you may end up waking up in the middle of the night to urinate. Or maybe you just pee several times a day.
Unusual thirst. All that peeing can make you dehydrated and thirsty. Your urine may become dark yellow and you may have a quick drop in your weight, another sign of dehydration.
Unexplained hunger. You may be hungry even after eating.
Bad breath. Your mouth may become dry and produce bad breath. Diabetes can also trigger ketosis, which can make your breath sweet or fruity.
Blurry vision. Fluid can form in your eye's lens as sugar levels increase and make your vision blurry. People think they need a new prescription, but getting your blood sugar levels down can restore your previous vision.
Numb hands and feet. Diabetes reduces blood flow to your arms, legs, hands, and feet, eventually damaging blood vessels and nerves. About half of all people with type 2 diabetes feel numb or pins-and-needles sensations in extremities.
Slow-healing cuts and bruises. If your feet are numb, you might stub your toe and not even notice until you have an infection. High blood sugar is an environment favorable to bacteria and makes your infections slower to go away. If you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well, you may have narrowed blood vessels, which also slow down healing.
Signs of diabetes in women
Some signs of diabetes in women don’t apply to men.
Vaginal itching and pain. An overgrowth of Candida albicans fungus can cause vaginal yeast infections, which can trigger itching and pain, a discharge, or pain during intercourse. (Sometimes Candida overpopulates the mouth and is called thrush. The symptoms include white patches, redness and soreness, trouble eating or swallowing, and swollen red gums or inner cheeks.)
Sexual problems. Women can see a drop in blood flow to the genitals, which interferes with orgasms. Nerve damage can lead to dryness and less sensation.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Irregular periods, acne, thinning scalp hair, and hair growth on the face are all signs of PC0S. About half of women with PCOS develop diabetes.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Women get UTIs more often than men do, particularly when a woman has a new male sex partner. Sugar in the urine helps grow bacteria, so people with diabetes more often get infections.
February 28, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN