Diabetes affects roughly 29.1 million Americans, and with such a high prevalence, most people think they know just about everything in regards to the disease. For example, you probably know diabetes is a condition that affects blood sugar. You also know diet and exercise are essential for proper management. You may even be aware of diabetes symptoms, including excessive thirst, blurry vision, and the inability to heal sores and injuries. This is all pretty common knowledge, so you may be wondering what is left to learn about diabetes.
Well, believe it or not, there are some symptoms that you may not be as aware of. If you’re not, you could be overlooking tell-tale signs that you are at risk for diabetes.
As a life-long condition, diabetes can affect your quality of life, and you’ll have to embark on lifestyle changes just to keep it in line. But if you recognize these surprising symptoms you can avoid a diagnosis of diabetes and the complications which come along with it.
Surprising Symptoms of Diabetes
Hunger and Fatigue
Many people with diabetes report being hungrier and more fatigued than normal. This could be due to the way the body converts glucose into the cells that are used for energy. The cells need insulin to take in the glucose, but if the body doesn’t make enough insulin or the cells resist the insulin the body makes, the glucose can’t permeate the cell. This will result in low energy and can also make you hungry.
Your Hearing is Changing
Surprising symptoms of diabetes. It is quite easy to blame hearing changes on aging because we know hearing can be affected as we get older. But diabetes, too, can impact your hearing and be the reason you continuously increase the volume on your TV.
A study by the National Institutes of Health revealed that hearing loss can be caused by prediabetes. Higher than normal blood sugar readings – but slightly below what would be considered diabetic – were associated with a 30 percent increase in hearing loss. Researchers believe that blood vessels and nerves in the ear become damaged with diabetes, resulting in poor hearing.
Instead of raising the volume or repeatedly asking, “Can you repeat that?” ask your doctor to check your blood sugar first.
Your Vision has Slightly Improved
Your vision has slightly improved Along with hearing loss, failing vision is somewhat expected as a natural part of aging. If every year or so your prescription is getting stronger, then suddenly you’re taking off your glasses to read the paper, diabetes could also be playing a role in that.
As mentioned, diabetes is commonly associated with poorer or blurry vision, but in fact, vision can actually improve in some cases. This is because diabetes can change fluid levels in the body and the change can include your eyes. One day you may have good vision and days later you don’t. To put it simply, any changes to your vision should be reported – good or bad.
Your Skin is Changing, for the Worse
Our skin ages as we do, which is why wrinkles and crow’s feet become an aging problem and not a 20-somethings problem. But changes such as dark, velvety patches on the skin – specifically on the back of your neck, elbows or knuckles – are a sign of high blood sugar levels.
The changes are due to a condition called acanthosis nigricans, and more often than not these skin changes are a result of diabetes. High blood sugar is linked with the growth of skin cells and melanin – what pigments skin.
Generally, losing weight can resolve these skin changes or a dermatologist can treat it with a topical ointment.
You’re Nonstop Itchy
Furthering our discussion about skin, you may find your skin has become much itchier, with little relief in sight. Diabetes affects blood circulation, which contributes to dry, itchy skin. If moisturizers and creams don’t aid in the itch, you definitely want to mention it to your doctor to prompt them to check your sugar levels.
Sometimes when an illness is so common we may believe we know all that we need to about it. But often health conditions are not that black and white and disease can portray itself in uncommon ways. These are just four of the unusual ways diabetes can present itself, so it’s important to recognize them and have your glucose levels checked.
Although these symptoms may not result in an immediate diagnosis of diabetes, they are very much telling you that the condition is on its way, so you should embark on healthy lifestyle habits to better prevent it.
Many people with diabetes report having to urinate more than the average person. On average, most people need to go between four and seven times in 24 hours, but people with diabetes may go a lot more. This is caused by glucose not being reabsorbed as it passes through the kidneys. When diabetes pushes blood sugar up, the kidneys are not able to reabsorb it, causing the body to make more urine.
Tingling, Numbness, or Pain in the Hands or Feet
High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can affect blood circulation and damage nerves. These damaged nerves often lead to pain or a sensation of tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. Known as neuropathy, this condition can worsen over time and lead to more serious complications if left untreated.
Both men and women with diabetes have a higher risk of yeast infections compared to those without diabetes. This is because yeast feeds on glucose, and because people with diabetes have a lot of glucose in their body, yeast can thrive. Infections can grow in any warm, moist fold of skin including in or around sex organs, under breasts, and between fingers and toes.
Lifestyle Changes to Control Your Diabetes
Many physicians refer to diabetes as a lifestyle disease since it can be brought on by poor lifestyle choices. However, this also means that making some small lifestyle changes can also help to control the disease.
The first place to start is by making slight changes in your diet. The general advice from health care providers is to decrease the intake of fat and increase the intake of dietary fiber. The best way to achieve this is to consume more fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils.
Overall fat intake should be reduced with a focus particularly on saturated fats including chips, baked goods, and fried foods. Choosing lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey can help to cut down on saturated fat. It is also recommended to eat less processed meats and try to limit foods that have been fried or roasted.
Eat smaller portions and consume fewer calories. Many professionals suggest using smaller plates to help control portion sizes.
Lifestyle changes not only include diet, but also mean changing daily habits. Exercising is extremely important when trying to control diabetes. Thirty minutes of activity a day is recommended as it can help control diabetes by bringing down blood sugar. It can also help to ease stress and help you lose any unwanted pounds.
Getting a regular checkup with your doctor twice a year is recommended especially for those who have a family history of diabetes. Since diabetes can raise the odds of heart disease, it is important to keep an eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1c (average blood sugar over 3 months). Your doctor may also advise you to get an eye exam, or see a podiatrist to check for foot problems such as foot ulcers and nerve damage.
Managing stress in everyday life can be very important, but for those with diabetes, it is vital. Blood sugar levels rise when you are stressed, and studies show that when anxiety is running high, many people don’t manage their diabetes well. It is important to find ways of relieving stress that you enjoy, whether it be through deep breathing, yoga, or hobbies that you find relaxing.
Watch Your Alcohol
Limiting alcohol consumption could make it easier to control your blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association recommends women to limit themselves to one drink a day and men no more than two drinks a day. The main reason behind this is because alcohol can affect blood sugar causing it to go too low or too high. If you do indulge in an alcoholic beverage, be sure to check your blood sugar before you drink and take any necessary steps to avoid low blood sugar.
All of these lifestyle changes can go a long way to helping reduce the symptoms associated with diabetes. Be sure to speak with your doctors about any problems you may experience in trying to adhere to these steps. By keeping a healthy lifestyle, managing diabetes can be a little easier.