10 Surprising Signs of Diabetes

Got a cut that won't heal? Get checked for diabetes.
Got a cut that won't heal? Get checked for diabetes.

Could you have diabetes? Some diabetes symptoms are well known: unrelenting thirst, frequent urination, and always feeling tired are surefire tip-offs that something's amiss. But other symptoms are more subtle. In fact, many people may have no symptoms at all until a blood test tells them they have diabetes. This matters because the earlier you catch diabetes, the sooner you can control of it and prevent complications. Here are 10 signs that point to diabetes.

1. You feel "fine." Early on, diabetes symptoms can be vague, so you dismiss them or confuse them with other problems. That means even subtle changes in the way you feel can be a good reason to see your doctor.

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2. You always have to pee. People with diabetes may urinate as much as 20 times a day, says Melvin Stjernholm, MD, an endocrinologist in Boulder, Colo. When you have extra glucose in your blood, due to diabetes, your kidneys work overtime to get rid of it. As this happens, the extra glucose soaks up water everywhere in your body, making you pee more often. Frequent urination causes your body to become dehydrated -- and you end up feeling very thirsty.

3. You're always tired. Everyone experiences occasional fatigue. But if you have diabetes, your cells are also starved for glucose (sugar) -- your body's main source of energy. When glucose stays in your bloodstream rather than being used by your cells, you can end up feeling very tired.

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4. Frequent yeast infections. Bacteria thrive in an environment with lots of sugar. That's why people with diabetes are prone to yeast infections, says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic. Common infection sites include the mouth (called "oral thrush") and places where you sweat, like the armpits, the skin between your toes, and under the breasts. Women with diabetes may also have more frequent vaginal and urinary tract infections.

5. Slow-healing cuts. Too much glucose in your blood weakens your immune system, which slows your body's healing process so cuts and bruises linger. "Even minor injuries like a cut with a razor will take longer to heal and may become infected," Hatipoglu says.

6. Frequent colds and flu. The same weakened immune system that makes cuts and bruises heal slowly can also make you more vulnerable to the viruses that cause colds and flu.

7. Blurred vision. Are things looking fuzzy? Consider getting checked for diabetes. Excess glucose in the bloodstream travels to the eyes and produces a sugar called sorbitol that obstructs your vision. It's as if you're looking through a glass that isn't clear, says Hatipoglu. "I've had patients who get new glasses, only to find out later their problem is from diabetes. Once I treat the diabetes, the blurred vision gets better."

8. Unexplained weight loss. You might be thrilled to notice you've dropped a few pounds without even trying. But in people who have diabetes, sudden or unexplained weight loss may be a sign of the disease. When body cells aren't getting the energy they need from food, the body starts to break down muscle and fat for energy, says Stjernholm. "Breaking down fat for energy can produce ketones, which are toxic." If you don't know why you're losing weight, schedule a visit with your doctor.

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9. You're always hungry. If you aren't exercising more or eating less, but notice you're hungry a lot, it could be a sign of diabetes. Diabetes stops glucose from entering your cells, so your body can't convert the food you eat into energy. This, in turn, starves your cells.

10.Numbness, tingling, or pain in your feet or hands. This may be a sign of peripheral neuropathy, a condition caused by damage to your nerves. No one knows exactly why diabetes causes neuropathy, or whether it's the result of too much glucose, excess insulin, or another metabolic changes, says Todd Levine, MD, co-director of the Banner Samaritan Neuropathy Clinic in Phoenix. "In many cases the development of neuropathy may be the first sign that you have a problem."

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