Do you know the unusual symptoms of diabetes that can go unnoticed? Diabetes can present itself in subtle ways that are often dismissed as minor annoyances instead of being recognised as potential symptoms of a serious health issue.
Diabetes has become a household name, and most people know it is chronic, can affect various bodily functions, and that diabetes can be prevented or managed.
While excessive thirst and frequent peeing are the popular, classic symptoms of diabetes, some lesser-known symptoms like recurring skin infections, deteriorating vision, or unexplained mood swings could be your body’s signalling for help against this harmful disease.
Knowing these less-familiar symptoms can hugely help prevent diabetes or, at the least, manage it well. Remember, being informed is key to being prepared.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, put simply, is a health condition where your body is either unable to produce sufficient insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it does create, leading to abnormal blood sugar levels.
Diabetes symptoms can sometimes disguise themselves as minor inconveniences, making them difficult to detect. For example, you may experience blurred vision, persistent fatigue, or frequent skin infections without realising they could be related to diabetes. These seemingly insignificant symptoms may actually be warning signs that your body is struggling with high blood sugar levels.
Unusual symptoms of diabetes
It is said that ‘knowledge is power’, and understanding these less-obvious signs can be a strong weapon against diabetes. Here are some of the lesser-known indicators of diabetes affecting your body in subtle ways.
1. Unexplained fatigue
While tiredness can stem from countless causes, unexplained or persistent fatigue may signal that your body’s energy-producing system isn’t functioning optimally due to diabetes.
2. Recurring skin infections
Do you experience recurring fungal infections or have wounds that take a long time to heal? These could be unusual symptoms of diabetes, indicating that your body is combating high levels of sugar. When blood sugar is high, it can weaken the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to frequent infections and delayed wound healing. Additionally, the circulation of blood may decrease, prolonging the recovery process.
3. Gum disease
If you’re experiencing dental problems such as inflamed gums or periodontitis, it’s possible that they may be an indication of more than just poor oral health. High blood sugar levels can increase the risk of infection in the gums, which could be a warning sign of diabetes.
4. Blurred vision
Temporary vision issues can also be a warning sign. High blood sugar can swell the lens in your eye, causing blurred vision, signalling your body’s struggle with diabetes.
5. Pins and needles
Are you feeling numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation in your hands or feet? This might be a sign of peripheral neuropathy, which can occur due to nerve damage in unmanaged diabetes. It’s crucial to be aware of this potential symptom of diabetes and seek treatment as soon as possible.
6. Itchy skin
If you experience constant itchiness, especially in your lower legs, it may be a sign of dry skin and reduced blood circulation. This condition can occur due to high blood sugar levels, which can cause dryness and persistent itchiness, particularly in cases of prediabetes or diabetes. Additionally, poor circulation associated with these conditions can make the problem worse.
7. Unusual weight gain
While weight loss is a well-known diabetes symptom, unusual weight gain can also signal insulin resistance, typically before the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
8. Mood changes
Changes in mood, irritability, or feeling depressed can indicate fluctuating blood sugar levels and may be a sign of diabetes.
9. Frequent headaches
Frequent headaches may not always be caused by stress or tension alone. They may also indicate that the body is struggling with unstable blood sugar levels. Although stress and tension can contribute to headaches, it is essential to acknowledge that imbalances in blood sugar levels can also have a significant impact. When blood sugar levels rise or fall rapidly, the body may respond by triggering headaches.
10. Impaired hearing
Surprising as it might seem, research suggests a link between diabetes and hearing impairment. Elevated levels of blood sugar can potentially harm the delicate blood vessels in the inner ear, leading to a subtle decline in hearing abilities.
11. Skin changes
In some people, skin changes can occur as unusual symptoms of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can lead to darkened and thickened skin, particularly in areas such as the armpits and back of the neck. This condition, called acanthosis nigricans, is commonly associated with insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin, leading to elevated insulin levels in the bloodstream. Excess insulin production is believed to contribute to skin pigmentation and texture changes.
12. Changes in sleep patterns
Fluctuating blood sugar levels can impact sleep patterns and energy levels.
High blood sugar levels can disrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, resulting in insomnia or poor sleep quality.
In addition, when blood sugar levels are consistently high or fluctuating, it can lead to feelings of fatigue and increased tiredness during the day. The body’s ability to properly utilise glucose for energy can be impaired, affecting overall energy levels and causing daytime drowsiness.
13. Increased hunger
Despite eating adequately, you might feel excessively hungry—a symptom termed polyphagia.
14. Frequent yeast infections
Diabetes can make individuals more susceptible to yeast infections due to the yeast’s preference for glucose as an energy source. Yeast, particularly the Candida species, thrives in environments with elevated glucose levels.
Also, yeast infections, such as vaginal yeast infections or oral thrush, are unusual symptoms in individuals with diabetes or prediabetes, especially if blood sugar levels are not well-controlled.
15. Cognitive issues
Diabetes can cause problems with mental ability, concentration, and memory. High blood sugar levels, common in diabetes, can harm blood vessels and nerves in the body, including those in the brain. This can result in cognitive issues and decline. Symptoms may include difficulty concentrating, reduced mental sharpness, and memory problems.
Wrapping up, diabetes is not always easily recognisable by its common symptoms and various unusual cues can also indicate the condition. These include unexplained weight gain, persistent itchiness, cognitive difficulties, and skin infections.
It’s essential not to overlook these less-familiar symptoms and to broaden our understanding and awareness of them. By doing so, we empower ourselves to take proactive steps in managing diabetes.
Knowledge is our most powerful tool, and by staying informed and attuned to these hidden messages from our bodies, we can lead healthier lives and have a more informed conversation about diabetes.