Nearly 35 million Americans — more than 10% of the population — have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That’s pretty startling. But what’s even more alarming is this: More than 7 million people who have diabetes don’t even know it because they’ve never been diagnosed.
Without proper treatment, diabetes can have devastating effects on your health. The good news is, diabetes can be managed — but it’s essential to start treatment early. Knowing which signs to look for is important for receiving a prompt diagnosis along with proper medical treatment.
At Generations Family Practice, our team works closely with each patient to design custom diabetes management plans aimed at preventing serious problems and improving overall quality of life. Here are six early warning signs of diabetes our team wants you to know about, along with a quick explanation of why they happen.
Diabetes interferes with the way your body processes blood sugar (glucose), resulting in higher levels of glucose in your blood. Your kidneys act as filters for your blood, and when your glucose is high, they have to work harder to filter out excess sugar. Increased kidney activity means your bladder fills up faster — and you have to urinate more frequently (even when you’re trying to sleep).
Your kidneys use fluid to filter your blood. When they’re working overtime, they draw the extra fluid they need directly from your tissues, leading to dehydration and feelings of thirst. For many people with diabetes, excessive thirst and frequent urination go hand in hand.
When high glucose levels aren’t controlled, excess sugar that builds up in your blood can wind up damaging sensitive nerve endings, which results in feelings of tingling or numbness in your feet or hands. Numbness in your feet makes it hard to know if you have a cut or other injury, increasing your risk of serious infections.
High glucose levels can alter your eyes’ natural lenses, distorting light and causing blurry vision. Over time, you may develop cataracts that block light from reaching your retinas. Diabetes also increases your risks of retina problems and glaucoma, a major cause of blindness worldwide.
Your body depends on a regular supply of glucose for energy, but when you have diabetes, the “system” for managing glucose is damaged. That means your tissues can’t get the energy they need to function normally. As a result, your body triggers feelings of hunger as it tries to increase its supply of glucose.
Diabetes damages our blood vessels, interfering with normal circulation and wound healing. Even a small cut or scrape may take an unusually long time to heal, dramatically increasing your risk of infections. When circulation problems happen alongside nerve damage, you have an increased risk of foot and leg ulcers, along with a higher risk of limb amputation.
Although diabetes is undetected in millions of people, it only takes a simple blood test to diagnose the disease or to check to see if you’re at risk for it. The American Diabetes Association recommends regular screening using a simple blood test, with frequency based on your age and risk factors for diabetes.
To learn more about diabetes testing and management at our Cary, North Carolina practice, book an appointment online or over the phone with Generations Family Practice today.