The three most common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes could be right under your nose if you didn’t know to look out for them. Here’s what they are and what to know.
Do you think you might have diabetes? Are you noticing changes in your daily life that concern you? If so, there are some common symptoms associated with diabetes that you should know about.
Your symptoms could mean you have diabetes, or a different health concern, or sometimes even nothing at all. Ultimately, your health care provider will determine if your symptoms indicate a serious condition, but it’s helpful to know the common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes so you can understand if what you are feeling is a signal your body is trying to send you.
Types of Diabetes
Some people with diabetes have very mild symptoms and some have more noticeable symptoms. Although many symptoms are the same for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, how they come about is often different. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can come about quite suddenly, but symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually come about gradually. If you are worried about how you are feeling, here are some diabetes basics and the most common symptoms.
When you eat, your body starts working to turn your food into fuel for your body. Your food is digested with the help of hormones and enzymes to become the energy your body needs. Glucose is the main energy source for your body, but it needs help getting into your cells. Insulin, a hormone made in your pancreas, is what allows cells to absorb glucose. As insulin works, your blood glucose level goes down. Diabetes happens when your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, or your body cannot efficiently use natural insulin (also known as insulin resistance), causing a buildup of sugar (glucose) in your blood.
The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are often the same, but the causes and treatments are different. Let’s review the most common types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. The cause is believed to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes, accounting for less than 10 percent of all diabetes diagnoses.
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. If you are living with type 2 diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin or does not use it efficiently. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include family history/genetics and/or factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
Gestational diabetes develops in some women during pregnancy. It often has no symptoms, which is why women get tested at the appropriate time during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy, often combined with factors like being overweight or obese, and genetic factors. It often goes away after the baby is born.
3 Most Common Symptoms
Although type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different, the three most common symptoms are the same.
Frequent urination. When you are living with untreated or undiagnosed diabetes, your kidneys work hard to remove excess sugar from your blood. Your kidneys filter out the glucose, which is removed from your body through urination. If you need to urinate often, even at night when you aren’t drinking water, this could be a symptom of diabetes. Your doctor may refer to this as polyuria.
Excessive thirst. An imbalance in one part of your body can cause imbalances in other parts of your body. Because your kidneys are working hard to remove excess sugar from your blood, you may feel very thirsty. Dry mouth, irritated eyes, and uncontrollable thirst happen when your kidney is using lots of water in your body to filter out excess sugar from your blood. Your doctor may refer to this as polydipsia.
Excessive hunger/fatigue. Depending on the source of information, either excessive hunger or fatigue round out the list of the top three most common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes. This is because these two symptoms are closely related (like frequent urination and excessive thirst).
If you are living with diabetes, it is difficult for your body to convert glucose from your food to energy. Lack of available nutrients in your system causes you to feel the need to eat constantly. Your doctor may refer to this as polyphagia.
Feeling tired or fatigued goes hand-in-hand with feeling hungry. If your body is not getting enough nutrients from food, you feel extremely tired, even if you are getting a good night’s sleep.
For children and infants, the first two symptoms above are often accompanied by weight loss and becoming more and more tired. In adults, type 1 diabetes can be misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, which is why it is no longer called “juvenile” diabetes. If you have symptoms of diabetes, make sure you discuss the possibility of a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes with your doctor, even if you are an adult. If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and aren’t responding well to treatment, you may have type 1. An endocrinologist can confirm a type 1 or type 2 diagnosis.
Other symptoms of diabetes include:
Blurry vision. High blood sugar can cause damage to the vessels in your eyes and cause blurred vision.
Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal. Increased blood sugar impacts your immune system and circulation, which makes it harder to heal from injuries.
Unexplained weight fluctuation. Unexplained weight loss happens when you aren’t getting enough nutrients from your food, and your body is burning up stored body fat to try and get them. This is a very common symptom of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. On the other side of the scale, weight gain can be a symptom of type 2 diabetes. When you become insulin resistant, your body tries producing even more, causing your liver and muscles to store glucose. Eventually your body will store the excess glucose as body fat.
Tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands and feet. This is known as neuropathy and can be an early warning sign of diabetes because elevated levels of blood sugar can cause nerve damage.
Frequent yeast infections. High blood sugar causes natural yeast on your body to grow in moist areas like your mouth, throat, armpits, or genital area.
What Happens If I Have Diabetes?
If you think you might have diabetes, your health care provider can perform tests to determine the cause of your symptoms. Untreated diabetes can cause damage to many parts of your body like your blood vessels, heart, eyes, and kidneys. In fact, untreated diabetes affects most parts of your body in some way. The good news is that diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, is manageable.
Diabetes is treated with medications and lifestyle modifications. People who live with type 1 diabetes need insulin, while people with type 2 diabetes may need insulin or other types of medicine. There are also some practical ways to lower your blood sugar in addition to medication.
People can live healthy lives with diabetes. This is because there are effective ways of managing the condition. Many people live with diabetes, which means you have a large community of supporters who can help you on this journey if you’re diagnosed. Early diagnosis and proper management are the keys to living a healthy life with diabetes.
If you are concerned that you might have diabetes, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. This is crucial in figuring out what is happening in your body. Your health care provider can perform tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.