Diabetes doesn’t develop overnight. The signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes often sneak up on you, sometimes slowly over time. You may experience odd or even weird signs or symptoms that come out of nowhere. Some symptoms are temporary, while others are more persistent.
The importance of recognizing early signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that requires treatment, is important. You might not see many signs of diabetes, but you will likely be more aware of symptoms, or the way you feel.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes, more commonly known as diabetes mellitus, is a disorder of the body in which glucose (blood sugar) levels are abnormally high. This occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin. Insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas, is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose in the blood. Think of insulin as a truck that loads and transports glucose to the bloodstream and cells throughout the body.
Glucose is converted into energy inside the body’s cells and used immediately or stored for use later. When the body struggles to produce adequate levels of insulin to transport glucose into cells, higher than normal levels of sugar remain in the bloodstream rather than being converted to energy. This aspect of the condition might cause early signs and symptoms.
A number of myths prevail about Type 2 diabetes, which prevents many from seeking early treatment. Know the facts to stay on top of your health and wellness.
Myths about Type 2 diabetes
There are some myths about Type 2 diabetes that have prevailed over generations. For example:
You’ll get diabetes if you’re overweight. You don’t have to be overweight to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. High-calorie diets don’t necessarily include large amounts of sugar. However, the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases if you’re obese.
Approximately 12.5% of adults diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes aren’t overweight. Lean adults may be also be diagnosed, especially with new-onset diabetes, among which many consume a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re diabetic, you can’t eat any sugar. Many people are under the mistaken impression that a diabetic can’t eat any sugar. However, avoidance of all sugars is not always necessary. A number of fruits contain a type of sugar known as fructose, which is beneficial in providing a number of vitamins, minerals, and fiber content in the diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals with diabetes do include fruits (fresh, canned, or frozen) - with no sugar added - to their diet.
Children can’t get Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may occur in children and adolescents, although an individual may not experience symptoms until they’re older. Type 2 diabetes is also more prevalent in certain cultural and racial groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Type 2 diabetes can also be genetic.
Early on, you might not even know something’s wrong, or that you might have diabetes. Earlier stages of Type 2 diabetes are not particularly noticeable, and a person can have Type 2 diabetes and not know it. In fact, as of 2015, the CDC estimated that approximately 7 million people are walking around with Type 2 diabetes and don’t even realize it.
Know what to watch for when it comes to early signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. The following signs and symptoms may indicate a potential diabetes diagnosis but never self-diagnose. Some of the following symptoms may appear in other medical conditions. When in doubt, consult with your physician.
Early signs and symptoms
A number of early signs and symptoms are not particularly obvious. Early symptoms of Type 2 diabetes often are rather vague, such as feeling fatigued or blasé. Perhaps you tire out more easily, which can be excused by a number of factors such as lack of sleep, overexertion, or simply getting older.
Having to go to the bathroom more than usual is only one early symptom of Type 2 diabetes. Why? When glucose levels are high, the kidneys work overtime, filtering and removing that excess sugar. This activity on the part of the kidneys often triggers an urge to urinate more frequently. This symptom can come and go.
Fluid intake, as well as age, can also have an influence on urine output, especially at nighttime.
Feeling thirsty more than usual is another early symptom of Type 2 diabetes. Many equate drinking more fluids throughout the day as being responsible for the more frequent urination. In a healthy individual, this makes sense. However, frequent urination can contribute to dehydration. If you’re feeling thirsty, your body is already dehydrated, hydrate.
Another early symptom of Type 2 diabetes is hunger. You might feel hungry more than usual, and you don’t know why. Actually, it’s likely because the food you eat isn’t providing your body with enough energy. The digestive system breaks down foods into nutrients needed by the body, including glucose, which the body uses a source of energy or fuel. Type 2 diabetes restricts the amount of glucose and the movement of glucose through the bloodstream, so cells don’t obtain enough energy. When your body’s cells lack nutrition or water, they’ll let you know.
Fatigue is another early symptom of diabetes, but again, it can be blamed on a number of other issues, including overwork, stress, or health issues. Fatigue is a signal that your cells are not receiving the energy they need for adequate function.
More serious, yet still relatively early signs of possible Type 2 diabetes slower
healing of cuts or bruises, mainly on the feet. High levels of glucose in the blood eventually damage the body’s blood vessels and nerves, impairing blood circulation. Circulation is essential to healing. If you find that a cut or a blister doesn’t heal in a timely manner but take weeks or even longer to heal, schedule a visit with your physician.
For some individuals, another early sign of Type 2 diabetes is a strange, tingly feeling in your fingers, your hands, or your feet. Because high levels of glucose can lead to nerve damage, you might be experiencing peripheral neuropathy. This condition affects a number of different types of nerves in the body, including sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves.
Is it diabetes or not?
Just because you experience any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above doesn’t necessarily mean you have Type 2 diabetes. If you’re concerned you may be at risk or in the early stages of diabetes, schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss your symptoms, and have your blood tested.
Your doctor has a number of options when it comes to blood glucose testing, including:
- Fasting blood sugar test – taken after fasting overnight. Fasting blood sugar levels of 126 mg/dL or higher, taken separately two times, often results in a diagnosis of diabetes.
- Random blood sugar test –taken regardless of when you ate your last meal. Generally speaking, a sample resulting in blood sugar levels 200 mg/dL or higher may suggest a diagnosis of diabetes, especially when also accompanied by previous symptoms, including thirst and more frequent urination.
- Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) testing is a longer-term averaging of blood sugar levels over 2 to 3 months. Results below 5.7% are considered normal, while pre-diabetic stages may range between 5.7 and 6.4. A level of 6.5% or higher, taken separately two different times, often indicates diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals have a blood glucose screening for Type 2 diabetes by the age of 45. This is especially encouraged if you’re overweight or you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes.
Can I prevent diabetes?
In some cases, it is possible to reduce the risk of diabetes by eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and maintaining a recommended weight based on age, height, and body composition.
For most, pre-diabetic and Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with medication. The key to wellness is to understand and listen to your body. If you’re experiencing weird symptoms that just don’t make sense to you, schedule a visit with your physician. When caught early, pre-diabetic and even some diabetic stages can be reversed with changes in lifestyle and exercise habits.