Diabetes Has Plenty Of Early Signs But Theyre Subtle Enough That You Might Not Notice
“It’s not like you wake up one day and all of a sudden you’re thirsty, hungry, and all the time,” says Melissa Joy Dobbins, RD, a certified diabetes educator in Illinois and a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “It picks up gradually.” Indeed, “most people are unaware that they have diabetes in its early or even middle phases,” says Aaron Cypess, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and staff physician at Joslin Diabetes Center. Just because you’re not keyed in doesn’t mean you’re immune from problems associated with diabetes, he adds.
The longer you go without controlling diabetes, the greater your risk for heart disease, kidney disease, amputation, blindness, and other serious complications. “We recommend that people with risk factors for diabetes, such as a family history or being overweight, get evaluated on a regular basis,” Dr. Cypess says. If you’ve been feeling off, talk to your doctor about getting a simple blood test that can diagnose the disease. And pay attention to these subtle diabetes signs and symptoms.
Which Tests Help My Health Care Professional Know What Kind Of Diabetes I Have
Even though the tests described here can confirm that you have diabetes, they can’t identify what type you have. Sometimes health care professionals are unsure if diabetes is type 1 or type 2. A rare type of diabetes that can occur in babies, called monogenic diabetes, can also be mistaken for type 1 diabetes. Treatment depends on the type of diabetes, so knowing which type you have is important.
To find out if your diabetes is type 1, your health care professional may look for certain autoantibodies. Autoantibodies are antibodies that mistakenly attack your healthy tissues and cells. The presence of one or more of several types of autoantibodies specific to diabetes is common in type 1 diabetes, but not in type 2 or monogenic diabetes. A health care professional will have to draw your blood for this test.
If you had diabetes while you were pregnant, you should get tested no later than 12 weeks after your baby is born to see if you have type 2 diabetes.
Talking About Your Diabetes Can Be A Powerful Way To Advocate For Your Health
with Janet Zappe RN, MS, CDE
Sharing how you make healthy choices for your diabetes can help others better support your needs.
Living with a chronic health condition means making lifestyle adjustments in a variety of ways. When it comes to living with diabetes, self-advocacy is key — whether that means explaining what insulin is to curious people or passing on that extra round of drinks or dessert.
What Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes Are The Same In Men And Women
There are diabetes warning signs and symptoms that both women and men have in common, for example:
- Excessive thirst and hunger
Men who have type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have low testosterone than men who do not have diabetes. Because of the low levels of the hormone testosterone, men with diabetes can have unhealthy symptoms that are not seen in women with diabetes.
Erectile dysfunction , or inability to get or maintain an erection, is a common symptom of diabetes in men. Diabetic men experience erectile dysfunction at earlier ages than men who do not have diabetes.
Another diabetes-related sexual dysfunction symptom in men is reduced amounts of ejaculation, or retrograde ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation is a condition in which the semen goes into the bladder, rather than out of the body through the urethra. Diabetes and damage to the blood vessels causes nerve damage to the muscles that control the bladder and urethra, which results in this problem.
Ask Your Doctor How Often You Should Be Checking Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar control is crucial when you’re living with type 2 diabetes. Dips and spikes can not only make you feel cranky and sluggish, but they can also wreak havoc on your personal health.
For the record, the American Diabetes Association notes that you have diabetes if one of the following applies to you:
- Your blood glucose after fasting is 126 milligrams per deciliter or higher.
- Your blood glucose two hours after eating a meal is 200 mg/dl or higher.
- Your hemoglobin A1C is 6.5 or higher.
The tricky part is that with type 2 diabetes you may not feel it when blood sugar levels are too high, according to the ADA. It feels different for everyone. “Not everyone will have the same symptoms, and some individuals will have no symptoms at all,” says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, a Los Angeles–based former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Because blood sugar management is so important to your overall health with type 2 diabetes, you need to take action if you think your levels may be out of control, even if you’re feeling totally fine.
Whats The Difference Between Signs Vs Symptoms Of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes symptoms are experienced by a person with diabetes, but signs of type 1 diabetes can also be noted by friends and family even if the person who is having the symptoms may not notice them or may be unable to communicate because they are in the throes of diabetic ketoacidosis. Common signs of T1D to watch out for include:
- Weight loss, despite eating more
- Changes to menstruation
- Rapid heart rate
- Reduced blood pressure
- Low body temperature
- Acting or seeming “drunk” while sober, which is a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis
- Breath that is fruity or smells like nail polish remover which is another sign of ketosis
- Chronic skin infections
How Can I Best Balance My Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms And Daily Life
Fortunately, there are medications that can help keep T1D at bay and reduce the risk of long-term complications. Type 1 diabetics who cannot make their own insulin will need a way to deliver it to their bodies, either through a pump or through injections underneath the skin with syringes or pens.
When T1D is properly controlled, a person with the condition will show no signs or symptoms, because they are playing an active role in keeping their blood sugar levels steady.
Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes can come on quickly, and they aren’t always obvious. Many times, they’re mistaken for other conditions. Making yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of T1D is a great way to be proactive about your health and the health of your family members. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in yourself or a loved one, get in touch with your doctor ASAP. They can make a diagnosis by checking blood glucose levels and A1C to start treatment before there are any complications.
When Do People First Experience Symptoms Of Type 1 Diabetes
The majority of people with T1D first experience symptoms in childhood, typically between the ages of 4 and 14. A small number, however, develop symptoms in infancy or toddlerhood.
An even smaller subset of people with type 1 diabetes will be diagnosed as adults, after the age of 20. The onset of type 1 diabetes is slower in adults, so they might experience mild symptoms for a longer period of time before diagnosis than children typically do.
Type 1 diabetes symptoms in children look similar to the symptoms in toddlers and babies, with a few notable differences. Mood swings and irritability, for example, can affect anyone with T1D, but this common symptom might be mistaken for an ordinary temper tantrum in preverbal toddlers, or as colic in younger babies.
Type 1 diabetes symptoms in babies and toddlers include weight loss and stunted growth – a condition known as failure to thrive – which is rare in adults. Failure to thrive might be the only noticeable symptom of T1D in a baby or toddler, since older children can clue parents in to symptoms such as increased urination or blurred vision.
“One important thing we need to point out is that type 1 diabetes is often associated with children, but it happens to adults as well,” Dr. Christofides says. Adult-onset, or late-onset type 1 diabetes symptoms look slightly different and can be harder to recognize and diagnose as a result.
What Test Numbers Tell Me If I Have Diabetes Or Prediabetes
Each test to detect diabetes and prediabetes uses a different measurement. Usually, the same test method needs to be repeated on a second day to diagnose diabetes. Your doctor may also use a second test method to confirm that you have diabetes.
The following table helps you understand what your test numbers mean if you are not pregnant.
|200 or above|
aGlucose values are in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL.
bAt 2 hours after drinking 75 grams of glucose. To diagnose gestational diabetes, health care professionals give more glucose to drink and use different numbers as cutoffs.
Method 1 Of 2:recognizing Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes
Symptoms Of Type 1 Diabetes Onset In An Infant Or Child
The young child who is urinating frequently, drinking large quantities, losing weight, and becoming more and more tired and ill is the classic picture of a child with new-onset type 1 diabetes. If a child who is potty-trained and dry at night starts having accidents and wetting the bed again, diabetes might be the culprit.
Although it is easy to make the diagnosis diabetes in a child by checking blood sugar at the doctor’s office or emergency room, the tricky part is recognizing the symptoms and knowing to take the child to get checked. Raising the awareness that young children, including infants, can get type 1 diabetes can help parents know when to check for type 1 diabetes.
Sometimes children can be in diabetic ketoacidosis when they are diagnosed with diabetes. When there is a lack of insulin in the body, the body can build up high levels of an acid called ketones. DKA is a medical emergency that usually requires hospitalization and immediate care with insulin and IV fluids. After diagnosis and early in treatment, some children may go through a phase where they seem to be making enough insulin again. This is commonly called the “honeymoon phase”. It may seem like diabetes has been cured, but over time they will require appropriate doses of insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in the normal range.
Method 2 Of 2:undergoing Diagnostic Tests For Diabetes
Is There A Test To Diagnose Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes
Your doctor or other healthcare provider will order urine and blood tests find out if you have diabetes. There are several different types of blood tests used to diagnose diabetes.
- Fasting blood sugar test: After fasting for 12-hours a glucose level is checked in your blood. If it is high, it is indicative of diabetes.
- Hemoglobin A1C test: This test tells your doctor how your average blood glucose level has been over the past 2-3 months.
- Normal ranges for HbA1c are between 4% and 5.6%.
- HbA1c levels that range from 5.7% to 6.4% indicates increased risk of diabetes.
- HbA1c levels higher than 6.5% indicate diabetes, while higher percentages indicate either worsening diabetic disease or poor response to diabetic treatments.
- Random blood sugar test: This is a test of your blood sugar at the moment your blood is drawn, but this number can vary greatly based on when you last ate.
- Oral glucose tolerance test: This test is rarely used in men, but it measures your body’s response to a large amount of glucose.
Controlled Means Different Things To Different People
There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for blood sugar control.
The ADA says that a “reasonable” goal for many nonpregnant adults is to aim for an A1C level of less than 7. Yet some patients may be given a more stringent goal by their healthcare providers, such as 6.5, if that’s reachable without harmful side effects, including hypoglycemia.
On the other hand, if you are elderly, managing other health complications, or reliant on insulin, you may be given less stringent goals. “It really becomes more important to just keep in the same place,” says Rahil Bandukwala, DO, an endocrinologist at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. “Keeping A1C between 7.5 and 8.5 may be very reasonable for such a patient,” Dr. Bandukwala adds, echoing the ADA’s recommendations.
Because elderly people are more likely to have blood sugar that swings too far downward, with fewer warning signs, managing their glucose too tightly can put them at greater risk for hypoglycemia, says Bandukwala. When you have low blood sugar, you’re at a higher risk for becoming dizzy and falling or passing out, notes the ADA.
How To Tell If You Or Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a permanent condition. That means you’ll likely have to deal with symptoms at least a few times in your life, no matter how diligently you monitor your blood sugar. We’re here to empower you with clear answers to all your pressing Qs.
Diabetes: 12 Warning Signs That Appear On Your Skin
Diabetes can affect many parts of your body, including your skin. When diabetes affects the skin, it’s often a sign that your blood sugar levels are too high. This could mean that:
You have undiagnosed diabetes, or pre-diabetes
Your treatment for diabetes needs to be adjusted
If you notice any of the following warning signs on your skin, it’s time to talk with your doctor.
Yellowish Scaly Patches On And Around Your Eyelids
These develop when you have high fat levels in your blood. It can also be a sign that your diabetes is poorly controlled.The medical name for this condition is xanthelasma.
- Tell your doctor about the yellowish scaly patches around your eyes.
- Talk with your doctor about how to better control your diabetes. Controlling diabetes can clear the scaly patches.
Signs Your Type 2 Diabetes Might Really Be Type 1
Reviewed by endocrinologist Stanley S. Schwartz, MD, emeritus Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and George Grunberger, MD, FACP, FACE, Chairman of the Grunberger Diabetes Institute, Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Medicine & Genetics at Wayne State University School of Medicine and President of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
Up to 10%1 of people with type 2 diabetes may actually have a form of diabetes known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults, or LADA, where the immune system slowly destroys insulin-producing beta cells. That’s the conclusion of a string of studies that have looked at this mysterious high blood sugar problem since it was first recognized by Scottish endocrinologists in the late 1970s.2 Yet 39 years later, most of the estimated 3 million or more Americans with LADA think they’ve got type 2 diabetes. That misdiagnosis can cause frustration, misunderstandings and even health problems, says endocrinologist Stanley S. Schwartz, MD, an emeritus Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
What Are Severe Complications Of Type 1 Diabetes
Nerve damage. High blood-sugar levels over a long period of time can actually cause your blood to thicken. When this happens, the blood has a harder time moving through your blood vessels and restricts the amount of oxygen and nutrients that can be supplied to your nerves. If left untreated, this can lead to a complication called neuropathy, or nerve damage. Nerve damage, in turn, can cause certain areas of your body to permanently lose sensation. It most commonly affects hands and feet.
Kidney damage. Thickened blood is harder to move through your body and can damage the delicate vessels inside of your kidneys. Over time, the blood vessels in your kidneys can narrow and clog, limiting their function. Because high blood sugar can damage nerves as well, people with type 1 diabetes may not be able to feel nerve signals when their bladder is full. An overfull bladder puts pressure on the kidneys and can damage them even further.
Remember, all of these symptoms and complications can be prevented if you work with your endocrinologist on a blood sugar management plan and system that works for you. Every symptom on this list can absolutely be stopped before it progresses. There is no reason a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes has to lead to anything other than an advanced awareness and understanding of how your body reacts to sugar and what to do to keep it in check when things start to get out of whack.
You Get A Surprising Number Of Yeast Infections
High blood sugars create an environment in your vagina that’s ripe for yeast infections. “Glucose is fuel for yeast. The more that’s around, the more they can multiply,” says Kellis.
If you’re having two to three yeast infections every few months or if the standard treatments just aren’t working, it’s time to see a doctor. “Once blood sugar is controlled, the frequency goes down,” says Goundan.
Talking To Friends & Family About Your Diabetes
Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed or are informing people in your life, you may want to explain to others that you have diabetes and that it’s really important for you to:
- manage your blood sugar levels
- watch your insulin intake
- adhere to a dietary and exercise regimen
Sometimes, it’s hard for people to understand because they aren’t sure how diabetes works.
Advocating for yourself is especially necessary when it comes to social situations where food and alcohol are involved.
Preparing to eat a meal with others might mean:
- making different food choices or requests
- adjusting your medication
- asking to eat dinner at a certain time
If you are newly diagnosed or trying to better manage your diabetes, it’s helpful to let other people know that your dietary needs may have changed — especially if you’re often eating at work or at social gatherings.
Ask for what you need, offers Nancy Sayles Kaneshiro, co-author of Weighty Issues: Getting the Skinny on Weight Loss Surgery, and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Weight Loss Surgery, published by the American Diabetes Association.
“Be straight with your family and friends,” she says. “That will ease the transition into diabetic-friendly diet changes. I remember many conversations that began with, ‘No, I really can’t go out for pizza .”
Here are some suggestions to support better nutrition habits:
Try to keep a regular eating schedule
When you’re eating out, check the menu beforehand
Tingling Numbness Or Pain In The Hands Or Feet
High blood sugar levels can affect blood circulation and damage the body’s nerves. In people with type 2 diabetes, this can lead to pain or a sensation of tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
This condition is known as neuropathy, and it can worsen over time and lead to more serious complications if a person does not get treatment for their diabetes.
You Get Enough Sleep But You’re Still So Tired
Carbohydrates, which your body breaks down into glucose, are your body’s main source of energy. But your body can’t effectively use that source of energy when you have diabetes, explains Goundan.
Of course, there are tons of other reasons you could be feeling exhausted, including your diet, stress levels, and how much you’ve been sleeping.
Still, if you can’t think of any other good reason for your extreme fatigue, and your low energy levels are accompanied by some of these other diabetes symptoms, it’s worth getting checked out.
Yellow Reddish Or Brown Patches On Your Skin
This skin condition often begins as small raised solid bumps that look like pimples. As it progresses, these bumps turn into patches of swollen and hard skin. The patches can be yellow, reddish, or brown.
- The surrounding skin has a shiny porcelain-like appearance
- You can see blood vessels
- The skin is itchy and painful
- The skin disease goes through cycles where it is active, inactive, and then active again
- Get tested for diabetes, if you have not been diagnosed.
- Work with your doctor to better control your diabetes.
- See a dermatologist about your skin. Necorbiosis lipodica is harmless, but it can lead to complications.
When To See A Diabetes Healthcare Specialist
It’s a good idea to go to your primary care provider if you have any of the early warning signs of diabetes.
“If you suspect you have diabetes, the first step would be to make an appointment with your primary care physician, such as your family practitioner, internist or pediatrician,” says Soma Mandal, MD, of Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. “They would speak with you about what symptoms you are having, discuss your family medical history, and what your lifestyle is like.”
It’s important to note: “If someone has been having increased thirst and urination, then develops nausea and vomiting, they may need to go to the hospital because very high sugars can be dangerous,” Dr. Weitzner says.
Prediabetes and an early stage of Type 2 diabetes is typically managed by your primary care provider, says Dr. Weitzner, but they will likely send you for diabetes testing, which includes a blood test that is typically done twice to confirm the results. “During pregnancy, or at other times, testing for diabetes may involve drinking something very sweet and having your blood sugar checked before you drink it and a few times after your drink it,” she explains.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, there are a few different specialists that you may see, including an endocrinologist, a healthcare provider that specializes in treating diabetes.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, don’t wait for your annual visit—call your healthcare provider right away.