Psst…You Could Have Diabetes
Listen closely. Is your body trying to tell you there’s trouble?
Courtesy Baylor Scott & White Health
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are often subtle, which might explain why so many people in the U.S. don’t know they have the disease. A whopping 8.1 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their bodies don’t use insulin properly, leading to too much glucose (sugar) in the blood, putting them at risk for potentially devastating complications, including high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease and loss of limbs.
“Diabetes can cause a lot of issues throughout the body,” says Donald Wesson, MD, MBA, senior vice president of Baylor Scott & White Health Weight Management Services and named president of Baylor Scott & White Health & Wellness Institute at Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center. “We can certainly prevent or delay the issues, but it’s imperative we identify them early. The interventions we have available offer the best chances of success when used early on.”
Ideally, diabetes is diagnosed by detecting high blood sugar before symptoms begin to appear. This is done with a simple fasting blood sugar test. Everyone should be screened for diabetes starting at age 45, but you should talk to your doctor about starting sooner if you are overweight, have a close relative with diabetes, have high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels, had gestational diabetes (during pregnancy) or are inactive.
Also, pay attention to your body and alert your physician if you have any of the following five common diabetes symptoms.
- INCREASED URINATION. The blood can only accommodate so much excess sugar before it expels it through the urine. “Increased urination is typically the first symptom people have,” Dr. Wesson says. “As diabetes gets more advanced, the body is trying to get rid of the increased sugar, and so it’s making a whole lot of urine.” And because you’re urinating more frequently, you also may notice increased thirst.
- FATIGUE. Extreme tiredness often is a byproduct of increased urination, Dr. Wesson says. “For one thing, you’re losing a lot of fluid, and that can make you feel tired,” he says. “But you also have to remember that one of the problems with diabetes is that your body is not able to adequately use sugar. So if you’re losing that energy in the urine, you have less of it to support your daily activities and will become tired more easily.”
- BLURRY VISION. Diabetes affects every part of the body, including the eyes. High blood sugar causes the lenses of the eyes to swell, which can blur vision. With medication to stabilize blood sugar levels, however, blurry vision usually self-corrects, Dr. Wesson says.
- SLOW-TO-HEAL CUTS AND BRUISES. If you notice even minor cuts and bruises are taking longer than usual to heal, get to your doctor promptly. Delayed healing can be a sign of advanced diabetes. “Prolonged high blood sugar—we’re talking over many months or even years—can injure blood vessels both small and large,” Dr. Wesson says. “That compromises the amount of blood flow to the tissue that’s required for healing.”
- NUMBNESS, PAIN OR TINGLING IN HANDS OR FEET. These too are symptoms of advanced diabetes and should be checked out by your doctor. “High blood sugar for a prolonged period of time can also hurt nerves,” Dr. Wesson says. “Called diabetic neuropathy, it’s when the nerves activate on their own, causing pain and tingling for reasons we don’t understand.”
Baylor Scott & White Health provides a comprehensive approach to the care of patients with diabetes. Find a physician on the medical staff specializing in diabetes care. Call 1-800-4BAYLOR or visit BSWHealth.com/Diabetes today.