Almost a third of people who have diabetes do not know it. That number comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, most people with prediabetes — a condition that puts people at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes — don’t know they have it.
So my diabetes story, which began in ignorance, was not so unusual. I had prediabetes for a long time before the complications caused by high blood sugar led to a stroke.
This is the reason I made a list of warning signs for Type 2 diabetes. Perhaps you or someone you love will see how important it is to get a simple blood sugar test. If this sneaky condition is caught early, you can avoid serious complications.
The symptoms of Type 2 are well known but are easy to miss. Two of them are increased thirst and frequent urination.
The word “diabetes” comes from the Greek word for “siphon.” If the beta cells in your pancreas are working, insulin is pumping into your blood to help your body digest carbohydrates like sugar and bread and noodles.
But in Type 2 diabetes (or prediabetes) your cells are resistant to insulin, which leaves much of that glucose, or simple sugar, in the bloodstream. When blood glucose levels are above 250 mg/dl, the ability of the kidneys to reabsorb fluids is blocked, leading to the release of large amounts of liquid (and sugar) into the bladder. (A urine test would show high sugar content. This is why for thousands of years, diabetes was called the “sweet urine disease.”) This process uses lots of water, leading to increased thirst.
Another sign of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes is fatigue. Since your muscle cells are resisting insulin, they are not getting fed the glucose from your blood supply. It makes you tired. The problem with using fatigue as a warning sign of diabetes, however, is this: There are many things that can cause fatigue, things like low iron levels or having a virus.
The fourth warning sign is blurry vision. When blood sugar levels are high, fluid is pulled from the lenses in the eyes, affecting their ability to focus.
A fifth possible sign is high blood pressure, which is known to be twice as common in people with diabetes. Some doctors in India now screen for Type 2 diabetes by checking blood sugar levels in all of their patients who have high blood pressure, which helps them find some of those hidden cases.
Are you sleeping very little at night? Researchers have found a link between sleeping fewer than five hours per night and having Type 2 diabetes. This is another potential warning sign.
Have you found that you have cuts and sores that heal slowly or that you frequently have infections? These are also potential signs of the high blood sugar levels common to Type 2 and prediabetes.
Those are some of the top symptoms to watch for, red flags that warn you to get your blood sugar checked. But there is another list to be aware of. If you are on this list, you ought to ask your doctor for a blood sugar check — not just once, but at every visit.
Ask yourself these questions: Among your close relatives, does anyone have diabetes? Genetics plays a huge role in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, so if the answer is yes, you and your family should be screened for the condition.
Are you overweight and/or sedentary? Get your blood sugar checked. Are you over 45? Your risk of having diabetes increases as you age, so get your blood sugar checked.
Do you have high triglycerides (a type of blood fat)? The metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, is composed of factors such as being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, having high blood pressure, and having high triglycerides.
Please pay attention to the warning signs. With Type 2 it is possible to bring your blood sugars into the normal range with changes in how you eat and a more active lifestyle.
Those two things have also been shown to keep people with prediabetes from developing Type 2 diabetes. Although you cannot change your genetics, at the very least you can avoid serious complications that come from long-term high blood sugar.
Because Type 2 diabetes can sneak up on you, it is wise to ask for a blood sugar check at your next doctor visit. The test is simple and takes only a few seconds.
These are things I wish I had known before Type 2 diabetes knocked me off my feet. If you already have diabetes, you can use these facts to help your family be wiser than I was. I would love to know how you are doing.