A healthy immune system helps resist infections. People with diabetes type I have an autoimmune disorder that causes their systems to misidentify and destroy the pancreatic cells that produce hormones needed to process and regulate blood sugar levels. This leads to high blood glucose and increases the risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses. Diabetes type 2 is mostly known as a metabolic disorder, although recent studies suggest it may have an autoimmune component as well. Diabetes type 2 is also characterized by higher-than-normal glucose levels. People with type 2 diabetes can sometimes control their disease with diet and exercise, but those with type 1 diabetes require regular insulin injections.
Laboratory Test Results
If a blood test shows that a person’s blood sugar is higher than 200 mg/dl without fasting, or greater than 126 mg/dl while fasting for at least eight hours, a doctor is likely to pursue a diabetes diagnosis. Even high blood sugar that does not reach this level could indicate a person with pre-diabetes. These individuals should be diagnosed so they can begin taking preventative steps to prevent full-blown diabetes.
Fluctuations in blood glucose levels can lead to mood changes, including mood swings, irritability, and confusion. Every person experiences mood changes linked to events in their lives or the environment, but when mood swings cannot be explained by other factors, diabetes could be the cause. Depression is also more common in people with diabetes compared to healthy individuals.
Frequent Visits to the Bathroom
People with very high blood sugar levels often need to urinate more often than normal. Healthy people usually take four to seven times trips to the bathroom per day. If this need increases for a prolonged period, the individual should seek medical evaluation.
Thirsty All the Time
Feeling thirsty all the time is connected to the need to frequently visit the bathroom. The body is attempting to remove the excess glucose in the blood through urination and pulls fluids from tissues to accommodate this removal, which makes a person dehydrated. This can become a vicious cycle. When thirst and the need to urinate begin waking a person up in the night, this interruption to sleep can also exacerbate diabetes symptoms.
Besides making a person very thirsty, rapid rises and drops in blood sugar affect the nutritional value the body derives from food. A sudden drop in blood sugar levels prompts the body to call for more of the glucose it needs to function effectively — even when a meal was recently consumed. People with diabetes may feel hungry more often than they should based on the amount of food they are consuming.
Very high levels of glucose in the body encourage yeast infections that may develop between the fingers and toes or in other areas that are often moist and warm. People with diabetes also tend to take longer to heal from superficial cuts and abrasions because very high blood sugar levels interfere with the body’s natural healing abilities. Itchy, dry skin is another common symptom of diabetes.
Unexpected Weight Loss
When a person loses more than ten pounds in the course of a few months without significant increases to exercise or diet control, diabetes could be to blame. When the body lacks sufficient hormones, it starts to use fats and proteins as an alternative energy source, which can result in unhealthy weight loss. The kidneys are also working overtime to remove excess sugar in people with diabetes. Unexpected weight loss often precedes and may prompt a diabetes diagnosis.
Lack of sleep, a viral infection, depression, and many other factors can cause fatigue. Diabetes can also have this effect. As long as cells receive the glucose they require, a healthy body receives energy. However, if the insulin supply needed to convert glucose into energy becomes impaired, the cells are deprived, and this can result in a lack of energy.
Numbness in the Limbs
One of the consequences of too much sugar is damage to nerves and blood vessels. When this occurs, a person’s hands and feet may become numb or start tingling. Though this is a common result of inactivity or sitting in a certain posture for a lengthy time, if numbness cannot be otherwise explained, it could be due to diabetes. This complication of diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy.
When blood sugar levels become unstable, glucose can accumulate in the eye, which significantly affects the cornea and retina and how the lens focuses. Severe diabetes can destroy the blood vessels behind the eye. In most cases, blurred vision is a short-term effect of uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Once glucose in the body stabilizes, this symptom should pass. However, diabetics should have regular eye exams because eye complications such as diabetic retinopathy are commonly associated with the condition.