Six tell-tale signs you may have diabetes 20



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Of those who have diabetes, around 10 per cent have type 1 diabetes (where no insulin is produced) while around 85 per cent have type 2 diabetes (where insulin is produced but isn’t used by the body). The other five per cent are women who have diabetes triggered by pregnancy.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked with being overweight – especially carrying too much weight around the middle, and with being inactive. Having a family history of type 2 diabetes also increases your risk.

The signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes aren’t always as obvious. It’s often diagnosed during a routine check-up at the GP. And, although the symptoms are often mild and develop gradually over a number of years, there are a few tell-tale signs. If you have any of these symptoms – or you know someone who does – go and get checked out by your GP.

1. Hunger and fatigue 

Your body and brain cells rely on a tiny sugar called glucose to provide the fuel they need to function properly. Your body tries to regulate your blood glucose level and keep it within very narrow limits. To physically enter the cells and provide nourishment, your body needs the hormone insulin. Insulin ‘holds hands’ with glucose to get it into where it needs to be. If your body becomes resistant to insulin, which can happen when there is too much fat in your cells (this distorts the shape of the membranes making it difficult for insulin to enter them) and the hormone can’t do its job and your cells become deprived of nourishment. The result? Hunger and tiredness.

2. Thirst and frequent trips to the loo

Your body likes to hang on to the nutrients it receives and so it will reabsorb glucose. But when there’s too much glucose circulating around your blood (if insulin is absent or not working properly, for example), your body can’t reabsorb all of it. To get rid of the extra glucose, your body makes more urine. But for this to happen, it needs more fluid hence an increase in thirst. Drinking more means you need to urinate more, too. The glucose spills out in urine (diabetes means siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus means honeyed or sweet!)

3. Dry mouth and itchy skin 

Because your body concentrates on trying to get rid of the excess glucose in your body through urine, there’s less fluid to go around for the rest of your body. The result can be a dry mouth and/or a strange, lingering taste. This can be due to less saliva production (saliva is your mouth’s natural cleansing system). Dry mouth can make dental problems worse so as well as seeing your GP, keeping up with visits to your dentist is vital, too. Also, because your kidneys are using so much fluid to get rid of excess glucose, there may be less fluid around to reach your skin. Dry, annoyingly itchy skin can result.

4. Blurred vision

As your body battles with fluid and glucose, the fluid in your eyes can be affected. Dryness can mean that the lenses in your eyes alter in shape making focussing more difficult and leading to blurred vision.

5. Infections

Millions of microorganisms live in harmony in and on your skin and that includes yeast organisms. But, if circumstances are right, yeast infections like candida and athlete’s foot can flourish and grow out of control since they love glucose and moist, warm conditions. That’s why recurrent yeast infections may be a sign of diabetes.

6. Slow healing of cuts and wounds

Blood carries the nutrients and infection fighters needed to promote wound healing. But, fluctuations in blood flow caused by fluid levels can slow down wound healing. On top of this, high levels of blood glucose can affect the nerves leading to poor blood circulation. All of this makes it harder for blood to reach the wound or cut, which slows down wound healing.

Diagnosing and treating type 2 diabetes is very important. Your GP can give you a quick check-up and test for diabetes. And, treatment can help you stay well and help you avoid nerve damage, heart trouble, and other complications later on.

Ravinder Lilly

Ravinder Lilly has worked as a dietitian in the UK and in Australia and is an experienced health journalist. She is the communications manager and dietitian at Australia's oldest registered health fund, rt health fund, which serves the people who work in Australia's energy and transport industries and their families.

  1. just need to find out how to get rid of the damn belly now!!

    1 REPLY
    • Getting rid of the sugar & grains in my diet did wonders. I had manage to lose some when I discovered I was gluten intolerant, but that only helps if you have food sensitivities. I had a large belly most of my life. More than once was asked when the baby was due. After reading Gary Taubes 5 years ago, I change the way I ate. Later I read a book called The Oiling of America and made more healthy changes. I am a post menopause woman from a family full of diabetics. Went from a size 18 to a size 14 getting rid of the gluten and most of that was off the belly. The rest came when I got rid of the grains and started looking for hidden sugars. I never ate a lot sugary things. After that I went down to between size 6 and 8. My trigs use to be high, but are now very low. Blood work is great all round. Not a hint of diabetics.
      For tightening the belly I found Callenetics very useful.

  2. You can have a few of these symptoms and be due to other reasons rather than diabetes.
    Such as medications causing dry mouth and thirst.
    See GP for a simple test if concerned .

  3. I keep putting off my fasting glucose blood test,which showed I was teetering on the edge! Since then I have lost a bit of weight! But I do have blurry video which is worrying me. The eye specialist doesn’t seem to be worried though.

  4. Truth be told I had no symptoms at all that I had diabetes type 2. Turns out my GP said I probably already had it for ten years before diagnosing. I was working, felt well, 51 years old. I just thought I would have a routine blood test since I had turned 51 , neither parents or any of my 6 siblings have diabetes. I was shocked. That was 9 years ago.

  5. Watch what you eat, stay away from white starchy carbohydrates, like potatoes, rice , bananas and anything made with flour, any product with sugar as an ingredient, may seem hard at first bit does become easy after a short as part of the eating routine

  6. I can’t recall what brought the problem to recognition, but I can’t say it’s been as big an issue as I first thought it would be. It’s amazing how easy it is to control ones dietary requirements. Fresh fruit is in as long as it is fresh, this includes bananas, oranges, apples and strawberries. Not too much though. Low GI foods, a balanced diet and moderation are key and I’ve been living with type 2 for 20 years with a big tick from my doctor.

    3 REPLY
    • Fred, I know you’ve had it 7 years longer than I, but consider testing an hour after some of those fruits. I suspect you may get some surprises, but I hope not.

    • Alan, it’s not a problem within the hour, in fact your sugar levels need to return to acceptable levels after 2 hours. The 3 or 6 month blood tests will provide the long term results. Fresh fruit is not the enemy it is refined sugars and your biggest enemy is fat not sugar.

    • I can understand where both you guys are coming from but am wondering if ‘your biggest enemy is fat not sugar’ while doubtless holds true for you Fred is maybe a bit simplistic.. ? Can one persons metabolism not say break down fat quicker/easier than another or does one law hold true for everyone with diabetes?

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