The reality is, many people have diabetes. In Canada alone, one in three of us already have the disease or will develop it later in life. So how do you know if you have diabetes? Type 2 diabetes symptoms often develop gradually. Below are some signs and symptoms that may be an early warning sign that you may have diabetes or prediabetes.
Earlier signs and symptoms of diabetes
- Frequent urination, especially waking up frequently in the night to go
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Constant bad breath
- Feeling tired, even after a good night’s sleep
- Blurry vision that changes from day to day
- Having cuts and wounds that are slow to heal
- Tingling, numbness or pain in your hands and feet
- Skin changes, such as sudden dark spots around the nape of your neck or under your armpits
- Getting frequent urinary tract, yeast or vaginal infections
- Losing or gaining weight without trying to
- Having frequent gum infections
- Feeling itchy all the time, due to yeast infections, dry skin or poor circulation.
You can find more information about type 2 diabetes symptoms here.
There are different types of diabetes
Remember that there are actually three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational (which develops in pregnancy). In type 1 diabetes, your body just can’t produce insulin and in type 2, your body isn’t responding to insulin as well as it should be. The symptoms for both types of diabetes are similar, although these symptoms can develop a lot faster in type 1. Find more information on the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes here.
Type 2 diabetes is also a lot more common than type 1. Unfortunately, half of the people who have it, aren’t diagnosed. This is because they don’t recognize the symptoms or may attribute them to other conditions. Plus, some symptoms of type 2 diabetes may not show up for years and years.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes that appear later on
Risk factors for diabetes
There is no way to predict whether you will get type 1 diabetes. Since type 2 diabetes often occurs before any symptoms are displayed, it is important to understand whether you are at high risk for the condition. If you know diabetes is a risk, you can discuss a plan of action with your healthcare professional to stay alert for warning signs.
People at high risk for type 2 diabetes include:
- Individuals with close family members with the condition.
- Members of certain ethnic groups, including Aboriginal, Asian, South Asian, Hispanic and African groups.
- Those who are overweight.
- Individuals with diabetes-related health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
- Women who had gestational diabetes or who delivered a baby over nine pounds.
You can check your risk for diabetes by getting screened by a healthcare provider, or by doing the Canadian Diabetes Risk (CANRISK) questionnaire. Just remember that having risk factors doesn’t mean you will get diabetes. It just indicates that your risk of getting the disease is greater than that of the general public. Find more on diabetes risk factors and ways to reduce them here.
Why early diagnosis is key
When you wait too long to diagnose your diabetes, you run the risk of developing diabetes-related complications, such as eye, kidney, gum or nerve damage. You also increase your risk of heart-related issues which is never good.
While there is no cure for diabetes, you can make a big difference in preventing the damage diabetes can cause, by making some key lifestyle changes. These include getting enough exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and taking any medicine your doctor prescribes for your condition.
How do I get a diagnosis?
Diabetes can be easily detected through a blood test administered by a healthcare provider, which essentially tells you if your blood sugar is too high. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of diabetes or have multiple risk factors, you may be given one of four different diagnostic tests:
- Fasting blood glucose (a blood sugar level of more than 7.0 mmol/L indicates diabetes)
- A1C (an A1C level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes)
- Oral glucose tolerance test (a blood sugar level of 11.1 mmol/L or higher is a sign of diabetes)
- Random blood glucose test (again, a blood sugar level of 11.1 mmol/L or higher is indicative to diabetes)
Find more information about these specific tests and how diabetes is diagnosed here.
If you suspect you have diabetes, don’t wait to contact your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis. Being aware of and getting the proper treatment for a chronic condition like diabetes will help ensure you are taking the steps needed to maintain or improve your health.