Mind & Body
Listening to Your Body – Early Signs of Diabetes
11/1/2019 11:00:00 AM

One of the trickiest things about diabetes is that many patients aren’t diagnosed until the disease has progressed far enough to begin causing serious symptoms. It’s estimated that 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, but one in four aren’t aware. These statistics are scary, but learning the early signs and symptoms of this dangerous disease can help us detect it earlier and manage it better. 

Many health professionals refer to diabetes as a "silent killer” because of its propensity to show minimal to no symptoms before it becomes serious. "Considering that the potential dangers of this disease include blindness, kidney failure, amputation of a toe or foot or a leg, heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke, we should make a diligent effort to understand this disease and look out for it in ourselves and our children,” says Dr. Andrew Bradberry of Imperial Health. "A big part of prevention and early detection includes having regular health exams with your primary care physician. 

Dr. Bradberry says if you are at risk for diabetes, some of the earliest warning signs that should be on your radar are hunger and fatigue. You might be thinking, "Well, I feel hungry and tired nearly every day,” as pretty much everyone experiences these things often, but the key is to look out for a significant change in these everyday states of being. Once they cross the line of what you know as "regular,” that’s when you should pay attention. If you feel that you can’t satisfy your hunger, or that it’s impossible to fill your energy tank, consider that it could mean that your body is trying to say something. If the increase in intensity lasts more than a couple weeks, you should seek the advice of your family doctor. 

The average person’s bladder needs to be emptied four to seven times a day. If you find yourself taking extra bathroom breaks and feeling very thirsty, this could be another sign of possible diabetes. This in turn will cause dry mouth and itchiness of the skin. According to Dr. Bradberry, if you’re diabetic, your body will not be able to take back in all the extra glucose that it’s producing, so it will make more urine to counteract this effect. Because that requires fluids, you will become dehydrated. "This is your body's way of getting rid of the extra sugar in your blood, and it’s a telltale sign of being diabetic or prediabetic.” Because your body is expelling the extra glucose so often, you may actually lose weight. While it is a good thing for diabetics to purposely lose weight, it becomes a concern when it’s happening on its own. 

Over a long period of time, high levels of glucose in your blood will begin to cause damage to the blood vessels in your eyes, and this can lead to permanent damage to your vision. However, changes in your vision can be an early symptom of diabetes as well. "In addition to causing things like dehydration and fatigue, the extra fluid in your body will affect your eyes, too, causing the lens of your eye to swell and change shape, which stops you from being able to fully focus your eyes,” says Dr. Bradberry. An eye examination done by an ophthalmologist will tell you if your blurred vision is an indicator of diabetes. It should also be noted that pregnant women should get eye exam as a precaution for gestational diabetes. 

Other symptoms of diabetes include tingling in the extremities, slow-healing cuts and bruises, redness and pain in your gums, and yeast infections. "These symptoms tend to reveal themselves a little further into the progression of the disease,” explains Dr. Bradberry, "but if you happen to miss the early symptoms, be on the lookout for these, because the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat and prevent complications.” 

In most cases, diabetes is relatively straightforward in its treatment and maintenance. However, Dr. Bradberry says it requires self-regulation, lifestyle changes, and awareness of diet and medication timing. Though it may not ultimately be as isolating as some other health issues, that doesn’t make it easy. "The main takeaway here is that we listen to what our bodies have to say,” stresses Dr. Bradberry. "In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy for us to get caught up in taking care of the kids, work and friends, and lose focus on our own health. If your body is talking to you, don’t take it for granted; it could mean the difference between keeping the life you have and having to completely change your day-to-day routine.”  

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bradberrry, call (337) 433-1212.

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