Diabetes affects a huge portion of the U.S.--nearly 30 million people have been diagnosed with it, and it’s estimated that around 8 million people have diabetes but have not been officially diagnosed--and while there are different types of the disease, the symptoms can be similar in many people.
Because diabetes affects nearly every part of the body, it’s important to know what the warning signs are and what to look for. It can be difficult to separate the symptoms of diabetes from those caused by other issues, so if you feel you are at risk or are exhibiting symptoms, consult your doctor for a blood sugar test.
Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood and is caused when the immune system attacks the pancreas, which produces insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes require insulin medication on a daily basis.
Type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed later in life and is usually caused when the body stops responding normally to insulin, sometimes causing an overproduction of the hormone. In those cases, the individual may require medication, but if caught early enough, Type 2 diabetes can usually be controlled with diet and exercise. Avoiding starchy foods, excessive carbohydrates, and refined sugars is necessary for people living with Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes and the amount of glucose in your blood can affect just about any part of the body. The most common symptoms of the disease, however, include extreme thirst, kidney issues, dry, cracked skin, bacterial and fungal infections, and problems with the feet. Diabetes can affect the nerves, so people who have lived with diabetes for years without sufficient treatment may suffer from a loss of feeling in the soles of their feet and fingertips. Because of this, injuries can be difficult to feel on the feet and can lead to infection and, in extreme cases, loss of the affected area.
Diabetes can also affect oral health , as it can cause issues with saliva production and lead to dry mouth. This can in turn lead to cavities and gum deterioration, so practicing good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are imperative. In some cases, diabetes can affect the eyes and may cause cataracts or glaucoma, even in young people. Seeing spots in your vision can be a huge indicator of a potential issue, so consult a doctor right away if you’re concerned it might be a warning sign.
People living with diabetes are at higher risk for stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and skin infections, so maintaining a healthy diet and saying no to drugs and alcohol are especially important, as they can contribute to those issues as well.
For individuals who have been living with untreated diabetes for a while, kidney issues may crop up as well. This can be related to high blood pressure and can cause swelling in the hands and feet. There are many medications available to help maintain blood pressure levels, however, and to assist in kidney health.