By Kathy Hubbard
After writing about diabetes last week it occurred to me that I didn’t address the fact that over seven million people in the U.S. have undiagnosed diabetes. And, much to my chagrin, I have to admit that a lot of people are reluctant to have regular medical checkups.
If you do not have regular exams you may not know that an annual physical typically includes urine and blood tests that identifies many potential and actual problems, not the least of which is diabetes.
So, today we’re going to examine the symptoms of diabetes and encourage you, if you have any of these symptoms, to contact your medical provider for a complete examination. It’s easy to put your head in the sand, but if you think about the potentially harmful complications of diabetes, it should scare you right to your phone for an appointment.
The Mayo Clinic says that early symptoms of diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, can be subtle and seemingly harmless. At first, you may think nothing of being thirsty and urinating more often. After all, what goes in must come out, right?
“Excessive thirst and increased urination are classic diabetes symptoms. When you have diabetes, excess sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood. Your kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar.
“If your kidneys can’t keep up, the excess sugar is excreted into your urine along with fluids drawn from your tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you’ll urinate even more.”
Then, they say, the increased urination which causes dehydration may result in a feeling of fatigue. Your body is less able to use sugar for energy needs, so you feel tired. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
“Weight fluctuations also fall under the umbrella of possible diabetes signs and symptoms. When you lose sugar through frequent urination, you also lose calories. At the same time, diabetes may keep the sugar from your food from reaching your cells leading to constant hunger. The combined effect is potentially rapid weight loss.” Don’t rejoice, see your medico.
“Diabetes symptoms sometimes involve your vision. High levels of blood sugar pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of your eyes. This affects your ability to focus,” Mayo Clinic says.
“Left untreated, diabetes can cause new blood vessels to form in your retina (the back part of your eye) and damage established vessels. For most people, these early changes do not cause vision problems. However, if these changes progress undetected, they can lead to vision loss and blindness.”
Slow-healing sores or frequent infections are common signs of diabetes. Although research as to why this happens is contradictory, it may be because high levels of blood sugar impair your body’s natural ability to heal and fight infections. It may mean having a cut that won’t heal or in women an increased susceptibility to bladder and vaginal infections.
If you experience tingling in your hands and/or feet or feel a burning pain in your arms, hands, legs and feet you may have diabetes because excess sugar in your blood can lead to nerve damage. This can also manifest itself as very itchy skin.
Another common symptom is red, swollen, tender gums. “Diabetes may weaken your ability to fight germs, which increases the risk of infection in your gums and in the bones that hold your teeth in place. Your gums may pull away from your teeth, your teeth may become loose, or you may develop sores or pockets of pus in your gums,” Mayo Clinic says.
Please don’t take these symptoms lightly even if they don’t cause you a lot of angst, they are affecting your body and your long-term health. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed the quicker you can get treatment. Remember, diabetes is a serious condition. And, remember that it’s a very manageable disease. Follow the rules and you can live a healthy and active life.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.