You may have no symptoms at first. When they do appear, they may come on gradually. That’s the danger of diabetes. While the disease may not alert you to its presence early on, it’s doing damage all the same. Thanks to high levels of glucose in the system, people who develop diabetes have a higher risk of developing heart disease; nerve damage in areas such as the feet and legs; kidney or eye damage; skin or mouth infections; hearing problems; osteoporosis; and Alzheimer’s disease.
Government estimates put the number of people with diabetes in the United States at 23.6 million, of which 5.7 million don’t know they have it. Are you one of those unsuspecting people? Ask yourself two important questions:
You may experience:
- increased thirst and hunger
- frequent urination
- slow-healing sores and bruises
- dry, itchy skin
- unexplained weight loss
- blurry vision
- tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- frequent infections of the skin, gums, bladder or vagina
Of course, diabetes isn’t the only disease that can trigger these symptoms. For example, blurry vision may stem from an astigmatism—a flaw in the curvature of the eye—or problems with the retina. Frequent urination can signal a kidney infection.
If you’re experiencing unusual or multiple symptoms, see your healthcare provider.
Certain factors make you more likely to develop diabetes, including:
- being overweight
- not exercising
- having a first-degree relative, such as a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
- giving birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more, or having gestational diabetes while pregnant
- being African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander
If you haven’t already, discuss your risk factors with your healthcare provider.
To test for diabetes, your healthcare provider will likely have you take a glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C) blood test, which indicates your average blood sugar level for the past three months. If you have an abnormal reading on two separate tests, you’ll be diagnosed with diabetes. A random blood sugar, fasting blood sugar or oral glucose tolerance test may be ordered if you can’t take the A1C test or it’s unavailable.