“Hello, we have been trying to contact you for some time now. Your car’s warranty is about to expire.”
You know the drill. The automated voice on the other end of the line blathers on until you hang up on what seems like the hundredth spam call that week.
Just like spam calls, “The typical symptoms of diabetes are really easy to ignore,” said Tina Canada, RN, a certified diabetes educator at OSF HealthCare.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five people with diabetes don’t even know they have it.
But it’s important to be on the lookout, because diabetes is a long-term health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.
“Diabetes is a disruption in the way your body uses insulin,” Tina said.
Food is broken down into sugar and released into the bloodstream, which signals the pancreas to release insulin. A person with diabetes doesn’t create enough insulin, which leaves too much sugar in the bloodstream.
Don’t miss something important. Look out for the signs of diabetes.
Signs of Diabetes
Frequent urination is one of the key indicators of diabetes. When there is too much sugar in the blood, your kidneys are forced to work harder to get rid of the excess sugar. The kidneys produce more urine to get the extra sugar out of the body. Thus, needing to use the bathroom a lot can be the first indication of diabetes.
Dry mouth and excessive thirst
Dry mouth and excessive thirst go hand in hand with frequent urination. You might think, “It’s hot,” or “I just haven’t had enough water today.” That’s a normal part of life. But if it’s a constant thirst or combined with the need to frequently urinate, it might be your body’s way of saying that you’re not producing enough insulin.
With diabetes, skin moisture can be hard to balance. If you notice your skin is dried out, especially your feet, look out for other symptoms of diabetes.
The higher blood sugar content in a person with diabetes can interfere with the body’s ability to heal wounds. This can be especially dangerous if you have undiagnosed diabetes, as diabetes can cause nerve damage. With damaged nerves, it’s harder to feel when an affected area of the body has a cut, scrape or blister. Since it’s harder to know when you have a wound, you’re much more likely to develop an infection.
Blurry vision or eye difficulties
For some people, they notice a problem with their vision, so they go to the eye doctor. After an eye exam, they learn it isn’t an eye problem at all. Damage to the eyes because of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy, and it happens when the blood vessels behind the eyes pump blood with too much sugar. Blurriness, vision loss or seeing dark spots can indicate diabetes.
Controlling or avoiding diabetes
Factors such as aging, high blood pressure, being overweight, having a family member with diabetes and having gestational diabetes all put a person at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
“Increasing your physical activity to 150 minutes a week is one way to stay healthy and either avoid or control diabetes,” Tina said.
That amounts to 30 minutes of activity five days a week. In addition, losing 5-7% of your body weight can help make a difference. And finally, make healthy food choices.
“Eat foods like vegetables, lean meat, fruits and more natural foods. Avoid processed foods. If you’re reaching for a snack, think of an apple or veggies,” Tina suggested.
If you think you may have diabetes, getting your blood checked at your doctor’s office is a good idea. Prediabetes usually precedes a diabetes diagnosis. If you’re able to catch diabetes at this stage, it’s much easier to delay diabetes or avoid getting it altogether.
Serious health complications like permanent nerve and eye damage, amputation and even death can happen because of unchecked diabetes, so it’s important to pay attention to the warning signs.