Are diabetes symptoms too vague or too late? Here is how you can be more precise with the classic diabetes symptoms, as well as about more reliable ways to be sure whether you have diabetes or not.
We have all heard the list – fatigue, thirst, hunger, urination, weight loss – all in excess. Yet, it will be interesting to analyze how many people have actually found out about their diabetes through such symptoms.
55-year old Theresa was shocked not as much with the news that she had diabetes, but when her doctor told that she had probably contracted it 15 to 20 years back. A pregnancy that happened in her late 30s would have sounded it off, but she had suffered an early miscarriage.
And finally, when she came to know it, it was not due to recognizing any diabetes symptom on her own, but her ophthalmologist getting alarmed at her eye condition. How could she probably have missed all the symptoms for 20 years? On hindsight, she did recognize many diabetes symptoms, but all of which she had put down on aging.
Anthony was 42 when he went for a varicocele operation. His pre-operative diabetes test was fine, but the incision failed to heal even after a week. Suspicious, the doctors tested him again, and were alarmed at what they saw. Anthony was quite fit, not feeling any diabetes symptoms at all.
The problem is that while some of the diabetes symptoms are vague, some other diabetes symptoms appear too late, and some other diabetes symptoms don’t appear at all.
Take for example diabetes symptoms like excessive fatigue, thirst, or hunger. Any or all of these diabetes symptoms can appear due to a variety of reasons, of which hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is only one reason. But a diabetologist can help you be more precise – is your fatigue increasing in evenings or getting worse with sugary stuff? That kind of fatigue is a defining diabetes symptom.
On the other hand are diabetes symptoms like blurred vision, tingling sensation in the extremities, erectile dysfunction etc – none of which appear as soon as you develop diabetes. It might take years to develop these serious diabetes symptoms, as they are not direct symptoms due to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), but symptoms arising out of organ damage brought about by diabetes. But by the time one diagnoses through such diabetes symptoms, the damage is done.
Some other commonly mentioned diabetes symptoms like excessive urination or weight loss may not appear in everyone with diabetes. Even worse, many people who develop Type 2 diabetes are overweight, not underweight.
Some quirky diabetes symptoms like irritability and dry mouth are harder to pin down, but a physician can educate on the typical diabetes breath. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic patients are often found to have different smelling breaths. Similarly, a physician’s help is needed to ascertain whether wounds that refuse to heal or peculiar skin infections are diabetes symptoms or not in your case.
The nature of diabetes symptoms being such, the question is whether there is any easier way to know for yourself. Nowadays there are many inexpensive home glucose monitors and their test strips are also cheaper now. They are ideal for self-use and don’t require drawing blood into a syringe. A simple prick with the lancet would do.
If you prefer not to invest in a home glucose monitor, you can check for diabetes at a local clinic or hospital. It would be ideal to check for HbA1c and not the usual fasting, postprandial (PP), or random blood glucose tests. Unlike these regular tests that give only a snapshot of the current glucose level, checking for Glycosylated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) gives an estimate of how your blood glucose levels have been over the past 1 to 3 months. HbA1c is also ideal to detect insulin resistance or pre-diabetes, much before the actual disease sets in.
If you think you have one or two diabetes symptoms, you need to verify it by visiting a doctor or going for a test at your home or clinic. Though not all reasons behind developing diabetes are known, some factors make a person more susceptible to the disease. These risks include genetic factors (mom or dad or both having diabetes), obesity, lethargic lifestyle, high stress levels, and existence of other diseases like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. People with such multiple factors should never rely on self-diagnosing diabetes symptoms and should check their blood sugar often (every three months or so) and seek medical help if tested positive.