5 Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes, one of the country’s most prolific and damaging diseases, affects over 30 million Americans. Essentially, it’s a disease in which blood sugar levels are too high, either due to a lack of or resistance to an enzyme that gets your sugar under control after eating. Both Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes have certain characteristic symptoms that often act as warning signs that should push an alert individual to seek out medical care and a diagnostic workup. What are some of the common symptoms diabetic patients may come across? It’s important to remember that physicians often construct “differentials” when they come across a set of symptoms. This means that if you receive a piece of information or come across a certain physical finding on exam, they think through the possibilities that might be causing it. For instance, fatigue can be attributed not only to diabetes, but also to anemia, autoimmune conditions, a lack of sleep, HIV infection, and many other conditions. Constructing a differential is important, therefore a patient should head to the doctor to confirm the underlying cause of their condition.

Self-diagnosis can be a dangerous and misleading process. If you end up experiencing any of these symptoms and they persist, it’s worth paying a visit to the doctor, who can order some relatively simple workup tests to gauge whether you have diabetes, or may be headed for it. One of the most important markers is known as Hemoglobin A1C (HA1C). Basically, your doctor looks at your blood and determines long-term glucose control (over the course of months). It’s an especially effective test, because folks who simply consume excess sugar once in awhile (say during major events or family gatherings), are unlikely to exhibit a drastically elevated HA1C. However, someone who consistently has elevated blood sugar levels will display an elevated HA1C upon testing. In addition, they can run easy exams like the glucose tolerance test, which assesses how your body will react to sugar intake. An inability to metabolize the sugar properly could also lead to a diagnosis.

1. Increased Thirst

Over years of research and experience, experts and patients have come to describe a series of common signs and symptoms that may suggest the onset of the disease. Everyone is different, and experiences symptoms in different ways, but certain trends may be common across populations. One example we can start with is increased thirst, also known as polydipsia. An individual with Polydipsia may find themselves drinking excessive amounts of water and other fluids (even outside of scenarios where they would normally find themselves thirsty, such in a post-exercise state or after sweating profusely). Even after taking a drink, the thirst doesn’t seem to go away. You might find that your mouth feels dry. This is a common sign and may be attributed to the actions of glucose in the body. With excessive sugar buildup, the glucose ends up acting as a diuretic, which means that it leads to more urination. With the subsequent water loss, an individual is left feeling more thirsty. Dehydration activates parts of the brains that act as thirst centers, which basically alert the body to the need for more fluid. If you begin experiencing a strange, newfound increase in thirst, let your physician know so that they are aware and can arrange for a more thorough examination. Additionally, it’s worth remembering some of the potential causes of excess thirst. These include, but are not limited to, dehydration, certain medications (particularly ones known as “anticholinergics”), brain injuries, and psychiatric conditions (Psychogenic Polydipsia). Next, we’ll explore an important coexisting symptom that ties into excess thirst. When you mention this to your physician, they may arrange for an electrolyte panel, which simply looks at your blood and measures the levels of key chemical components in the body (such as Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Glucose, Bicarbonate, Blood Urea Nitrogen, Creatinine, Calcium, etc.). Excess water and fluid intake can contribute to altered electrolytes, which may lead to other unwanted side effects. Too much or too little of any essential electrolyte can have harmful effects on a wide swath of organ systems.