The Gist of It:
- Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes develop slowly making detection difficult.
- 3 main symptoms are excessive: thirst, urination, and hunger.
- Regular conditions like fatigue and weight loss can be symptoms too.
Type 2 diabetes tends to develop more slowly and dare we say casually as compared to other medical conditions. It can manifest over a period of months or even years and the symptoms can appear very gradually, which can make spotting the signs more difficult.
Here’s a list of the most common signs of Type 2 diabetes:
1. Extra thirsty
This is a condition called Polydipsia, the term given to the feeling of excessive thirst and is one of the initial symptoms of diabetes. Sometimes you may also experience temporary dryness in and around the mouth. This symptom alone is not conclusive enough to say that someone has diabetes because we all get thirsty at various times during the day, especially in our scorching weather.
However, if you feel thirsty all the time or your thirst is stronger than usual and continues even after you drink, it can be a sign that not all is well inside your body. The excess sugar building up in the bloodstream causes fluid to be pulled from the tissues; dehydrating it. This may leave you feeling thirsty even though you drank a lot of water.
Speaking of drinking lots of water…
2. Extra trips to the loo
And since you’re drinking more water, you’ll probably visit the lil’ boys / girls room more often. This condition is called Polyuria, whereby the body urinates more than usual and passes excessive or abnormally large amounts of urine each time you urinate. How large the amount? More than 3 litres a day compared to the normal daily urine output in adults of about 1 to 2 litres. Severe dehydration can affect the functions of the kidney if left untreated.
3. Increase in hunger
Polyphagia is the medical term used to describe excessive hunger or increase in appetite and is one of the three main signs of diabetes. Without enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted and drained of energy. Your body then sends an SOS to your tummy to sound the rumbling.
An increase in hunger is usually your body’s way of responding to normal things such as intensive exercise or other strenuous activities, but polyphagia can also be the result of more severe issues such as depression or stress.
In case you were wondering, the word Poly is a Greek word that means “many” or “often”, and it’s not the parrot of the doctor that discovered these three symptoms.
4. Unplanned weight loss
Despite eating more than usual to relieve the sudden burst of appetite, you may experience weight loss (sometimes rapidly). The amount you weigh is determined by a number of factors like your age, calorie intake, and overall wellness. Once you reach middle adulthood, your weight should remain relatively stable from year to year, depending on how many open houses you visit each festive season.
Losing or gaining 1 or 2 kilos here and there is normal but unexplained weight loss that is significant (over 5% of your body weight) may signal an underlying medical condition. Without the ability to metabolise glucose; the body uses whatever it can find to fuel itself. Fuel like muscle and fat. The calories literally go down the drain as excess glucose is released in the urine.
5. Irregular fatigue and lethargy
This is pretty straightforward; if your cells are deprived of sugar then your body is deprived of energy. Like a car without petrol, your body will slow down, burning up fat and muscle as you go along.
6. Blurry vision
As horrific as this may sound, if your blood sugar is too high, it will absorb fluid from the lenses of your eyes. This form of dehydration will affect your ability to focus clearly and will lead to complete loss of vision if left untreated for long periods of time.
7. Slow-healing cuts or frequent infections
Type 2 diabetes affects your ability to heal and resist infections. Wounds or cuts that take more than a few weeks to heal may risk being infected and require medical treatment. If this happens often then it could be a sign of an underlying disease such as diabetes. Ironically in order to test if you have diabetes, you have to prick your finger.
When you cut or burn yourself, your body begins a three-stage process to repair the damaged skin:
- Immune response causes the wound to become inflamed to prevent infections.
- New cells form over the wound to create a scab.
- A scar tissue forms over the wound to complete the healing.
8. Areas of darkened skin
Now this is a little tricky in Malaysia due to the many races and mixed heritage of our beautiful nation so don’t go pointing fingers at anyone. Certain people with Type 2 have patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds and creases of their bodies. Usually in the armpits and neck but please don’t go looking in the wrong places. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans and is a sign of insulin resistance.
So let’s say you’re experiencing a few of these symptoms but don’t panic! At least not until you’ve read our article on 5 easy ways to check if you have diabetes. You’ll learn about the simple and harmless methods to test, but unfortunately you still have to make that drive to the doc’s office (perhaps you might even get an MC but you didn’t hear this from us).
HealthWorks is currently running a series on diabetes, click here to read more on this silent killer.