Common symptoms of diabetes include feeling hungry and thirsty all the time, fatigue, and frequently needing to go to the loo. But there are other lesser known symptoms of diabetes that you might not be aware of. Here are some to watch for.
1. Frequent yeast infections of the skin and urinary tract. Yeast thrives in blood and urine with high sugar content. High sugar levels also weaken the immune system.
2. Erectile dysfunction as a result of damage to nerves and blood vessels, caused by poor blood sugar control over a long period.
3. Lightheadedness due to fluctuating blood sugar levels and/or dehydration (because diabetes can make you urinate frequently).
4. Tingling in hands and feet, or in your fingers and toes. It’s also called diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), and it typically develops slowly, so for many it is one of the first signs of diabetes.
5. Dark patches of skin on the neck, armpits, groin, elbows, knees, knuckles, lips, palms, or soles of the feet. Excess insulin causes skin cells to reproduce rapidly and with more melanin, which causes patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding skin.
6. Blurry vision can be one of the first signs of diabetes. When blood sugar goes up and down, the lens in your eye can swell and shrink. If not diagnosed and managed, diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the retina, a condition called retinopathy, which can result in blindness.
7. Itching, because high blood sugar levels can cause damage to nerve fibres, particularly in the feet and hands. Also, diabetes leads to an increase in immune system proteins called cytokines, inflammatory substances that can cause itchiness.
8. Losing weight without trying. If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to process glucose well, it isn’t getting enough food, so it starts breaking down muscles and fat to create energy. You may also be losing calories through frequent urination.
Download the new “Diabetes Words” app, free from Apple or Google Play. Using simple words to describe what diabetes is, it’s designed to help you better understand and treat the condition.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Diagnosis is made through a blood test. A simple finger prick test can be done at your pharmacy. With good treatment, diabetes is a manageable condition, and the sooner you get tested, the better.