Recognizing the early signs and Other Causes of this chronic condition can result in a person getting treatment sooner, which reduces the risk of severe complications.
From those symptoms we love to talk about at the water cooler – “Man, am I tired!” to those that we really don’t want anyone else to know – ahem, erectile dysfunction, cough – the signs of diabetes are subtle but serious. And while diabetes is manageable, it can shorten your life considerably. It can also up your risk of things like blindness, heart attack, and even loss of a foot. Check out our full list of signs that add up to diabetes and then do the math – a trip to the doctor may be warranted.
Read on to see all 12 indicators of diabetes >>
#12. Bad Breath
Halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath, is common in diabetics because they are prone to infection. Inflamed, infected gums cause bad breath and can also affect metabolism, spiking blood sugar even further. Another source of bad breath related to diabetes comes from the condition of ketoacidosis. High levels of ketones in the blood are linked to a sweet, fruity odor on the breath.
Symptoms of Bad Breath:
- A white coating on the tongue especially at the back of the tongue.
- Dry mouth.
- Build up around teeth.
- Post-nasal drip, or mucous.
- Morning bad breath and a burning tongue.
- Thick saliva and a constant need to clear your throat.
- Constant sour, bitter metallic taste.
#11. Blurry Vision
Diabetes causes blurry vision because your eyes depend on the fluid within and around them to function properly. A dehydrated lens warps and struggles to focus. This condition often resolves upon proper diabetes management. However, left unchecked, diabetes also causes nerve damage. When new vessels in the back of the eye attempt to form over damaged vessels, it can lead to permanent blindness.
Other Causes of Blurry Vision:
- refractive errors, such as near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism.
- abrasions to the cornea.
- age-related macular degeneration.
- corneal opacification, or scarring.
- infectious retinitis.
- optic neuritis.
#10. Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction in men with uncontrolled diabetes likely stems from damage to nerves and blood vessels. Though embarrassing to discuss, erectile dysfunction affects both the sufferer and his partner. Probably the last thing you need when already feeling crummy from uncontrolled diabetes is an unhappy relationship with your significant other, so put the embarrassment aside and speak to your doctor ASAP.
Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:
- Heart disease
- Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Certain prescription medications
- Tobacco use
- Peyronie's disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis
- Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
- Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
- Low testosterone
Psychological Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:
- Depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns
#9. Excessive Hunger And Thirst
What happens is that the body is overwhelmed by the task of processing glucose in your bloodstream. Water is pulled out of cells to try and flush away the excess, but in the process, all the important nutrients your body needs, including the glucose itself, are lost. The result is a cycle of dehydration and hunger that eating and drinking more only perpetuates.
Other Causes of Excessive Hunger And Thirst:
- not eating enough protein
- not sleeping enough
- eating too many refined carbs
- diet is low in fat
- not drinking enough water
- diet lacks fiber
- eating while you’re distracted
- exercising a lot
- drinking too much alcohol
- drinking your calories
- overly stressed
- taking certain medications
- eating too fast
- having a medical condition
Sure, lots of things cause fatigue, including the simplest explanation that you’re just not sleeping enough. But fatigue almost always comes along with diabetes because the body is trying and failing to use the fuel that’s put in. If you find that you’re extra tired after eating, when you should have more energy, that’s a strong sign that diabetes might be present.
Lifestyle Causes of Fatigue:
- physical exertion or lack of physical activity
- lack of sleep
- being overweight or obese
- periods of emotional stress
- taking certain medications, such as antidepressants or sedatives
- using alcohol on a regular basis, illicit drugs (such as cocaine), too much caffeine
- not eating a nutritious diet
Physical Health Causes of Fatigue:
- anemia, arthritis, fibromyalgia or emphysema
- infections, such as cold and flu
- Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism (under/over active)
- sleep/eating/autoimmune disorders
- congestive heart failure, cancer, kidney/liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Mental Health Causes of Fatigue:
- seasonal affective disorder
#7. Frequent Urination
Because water is pulled from all available cells in order to flush away excess glucose, the kidneys get overwhelmed trying to filter and reabsorb it. That means you’ll be running to the toilet way more than usual to eliminate the build-up. All that peeing can leave the body very dehydrated, not to mention exhausted, because this is a 24/7 problem that will affect your ability to sleep through the night.
Other Causes of Frequent Urination:
- Anterior prolapse (cystocele)
- Anxiety disorders.
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
- Bladder stones.
- Change in kidney function.
- Diabetes insipidus.
- Diuretics (water retention relievers)
- Excess consumption of total fluids, alcohol or caffeine.
#6. Nausea and Vomiting
When uncontrolled diabetes results in rapid weight loss, your body is burning fat at an unsustainable rate. That process creates ketones, which may build up in your blood at dangerous levels and lead to a potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. The ketones cause nausea and even vomiting in people with sensitive stomachs.
Other Causes of Nausea and Vomiting:
- Motion sickness or seasickness.
- Early stages of pregnancy
- Medication-induced vomiting.
- Intense pain.
- Emotional stress (such as fear)
- Gallbladder disease.
- Food poisoning.
- Infections (such as the "stomach flu")
- Ingestion of toxins or excessive amounts of alcohol
#5. Painful or Numb Feet and Legs
Diabetes leads to hardening of the arteries as well as nerve damage, and these symptoms are quite noticeable in the feet and legs. Poor blood flow and nerve damage combined can lead to skin ulcers or infections that take a really long time to heal, and because there may also be numbness, you might not realize how badly your feet are suffering.
Symptoms of Painful or Numb Feet and Legs:
- pins-and-needles sensation
- weak-feeling foot or feet
Other Causes of Painful or Numb Feet and Legs:
- alcoholism or chronic alcohol abuse
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- herniated disk
- Lyme disease
- Morton’s neuroma
- multiple sclerosis
- peripheral arterial disease
- peripheral vascular disease
- side effect of chemotherapy medications
#4. Slow Healing Sores
Have you noticed any cuts or sores that just aren’t going away? Unless you’ve been picking at them, slow healing may indicate diabetes. Not only is your body’s system for healing compromised by its effort to expel excess glucose, but a bunch of opportunistic infections just love to feed on sugar and will take advantage of its availability.
Other Causes of Slow Healing Sores:
- Dead skin (necrosis) – dead skin and foreign materials interfere with the healing process.
- Infection – an open wound may develop a bacterial infection. The body fights the infection rather than healing the wound.
- Haemorrhage – persistent bleeding will keep the wound margins apart.
- Mechanical damage – for example, a person who is immobile is at risk of bedsores because of constant pressure and friction.
- Diet – poor food choices may deprive the body of the nutrients it needs to heal the wound, such as vitamin C, zinc and protein.
- Medical conditions – such as diabetes, anaemia and some vascular diseases that restrict blood flow to the area, or any disorder that hinders the immune system.
- Age – wounds tend to take longer to heal in elderly people.
- Medicines – certain drugs or treatments used in the management of some medical conditions may interfere with the body's healing process.
- Smoking – cigarette smoking impairs healing and increases the risk of complications.
- Varicose veins – restricted blood flow and swelling can lead to skin break down and persistent ulceration.
- Dryness – wounds (such as leg ulcers) that are exposed to the air are less likely to heal. The various cells involved in healing, such as skin cells and immune cells, need a moist environment.
#3. Swollen or Tender Gums
Diabetes weakens the body’s ability to fight off germs, which, unless you live in a bubble, are absolutely everywhere. Due to its moist environment, sharp teeth surrounded by soft tissues, and all the stuff that gets put in there daily, mouths are especially sensitive to infection. Seek help right away if your gums are loose, pull away from your teeth, or develop pockets of pus. (We probably didn’t need to tell you that last part.)
Other Causes of Swollen or Tender Gums:
- gingivitis (inflamed gums)
- infection (virus or fungus)
- poorly fitting dentures or dental appliances.
- sensitivity to toothpaste or mouthwash.
- food particles stuck between teeth and gums.
- side effect of a medicine.
#2. Unexplained Weight Loss
Never thought that losing weight can be a bad thing? Just like being able to eat as much as you want and still lose weight sounds like a dream. Actually, it’s more like a nightmare as your body is failing to retrieve fuel from the food you eat and instead of burning fat to survive. That’s not sustainable over the long term and a sign that diabetes is causing you to starve no matter how much you consume.
Other Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss:
- Muscle loss
- Overactive thyroid
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Addison’s disease
- Congestive heart failure
#1. Yeast Infections
Yeast infections most often occur in vaginal tissues, but men aren’t off the hook completely! Yeast feeds on excess sugar, which can be secreted in sweat, urine, and mucus. Therefore, yeast infections are found almost anywhere on the skin, but especially in places that tend to trap moisture. Add in a compromised immune system and yeast can be difficult to control in diabetic patients.
Symptoms of Yeast Infections:
- vaginal itching
- swelling around the vagina
- burning during urination or sex
- pain during sex
Other Causes of Yeast Infections:
- antibiotics, which decrease the amount of Lactobacillus (“good bacteria”) in the vagina
- weak immune system
- poor eating habits, including a lot of sugary foods
- hormonal imbalance near your menstrual cycle
- lack of sleep
Managing your physical health can do a lot to improve mental health. Don’t wait any longer to get tested for diabetes. The disease can be controlled – even healed if caught early enough. And if your tests come back clear, you will have gained valuable peace of mind. Make the call today. Your body, mind, and ahem – sex life – will thank you in the long run.