The new study has recently revealed that insomnia might be a symptom of diabetes, but what other quiet signs are there, that might go unnoticed?
The two most well-known symptoms of Type-2 diabetes are polydipsia and polyuria. In layman’s terms: feeling thirsty all the time and needing to go to the bathroom more often. Both are side-effects of the underlying cause of Type-2 diabetes, which is that the body isn’t producing enough insulin to transport sugar out of the blood and into the cells, leading to an accumulation of sugar in the blood. But why does that make you thirsty and in need of a toilet?
“As your blood sugar gets higher, your kidneys are able to excrete some of those high blood sugars like a pressure release valve,” explains Vas. “The trouble is, when you lose glucose, you also lose water, so you get dehydrated. Hence you feel thirsty and you’ll drink a lot more. And then you’re in this cycle.”
There are other symptoms, too. Unexplained weight loss can be one side-effect of the cells requiring the glucose which isn’t being transported to them due to the aforementioned insulin issue.
“The cell senses that it doesn’t have glucose and sends its own feedback mechanisms to the body,” says Vas. The first port of call is the liver, which converts glycogen into glucose. But once that has run out, the body starts converting fat or muscle into sugar. “Again though, it’s increasing the amount of glucose in the bloodstream and that doesn’t necessarily mean that the new glucose from burning fat actually reaches the cell,” so it can just be making the situation worse.
As the cells aren’t getting enough glucose, this can cause both fatigue as the body runs out of energy, and increased hunger as it tries to increase uptake of sugar.
Another common symptom is thrush, usually around the genitals, but also around the mouth, armpits and in between the fingers, which can be experienced by both men and women. “Urine [in diabetic people] is coated with copious amounts of glucose and that allows the formation of candida yeast, which causes thrush,” explains Vas. Of course, there can be other causes of thrush but it’s worth seeing a doctor if you keep getting it.
There are also symptoms which are caused by the build-up of glucose within the bloodstream. “Uncontrolled diabetes can also impact our vision, with high blood sugar causing damage to blood vessels in the eye, also known as retinopathy,” explains Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, medical director for Bupa Health Clinics. This condition can eventually lead to bleeding in the eyes and blindness.
Too much glucose in the blood can also lead to an increase in infections. ““If we cut or graze the skin, most of us will expect it to scab over and heal fairly quickly,” adds Thiyagarajan. “However, if someone has high blood glucose levels it can lead to poor blood circulation. This can mean that wounds heal more slowly than normal and are more prone to becoming infected.”
However, it’s worth noting that having any or all of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have diabetes, but these signs might give you a warning you’re heading that way. “People with pre-diabetes can also have these symptoms and you’re walking towards diabetes if you don’t do something about it,” explains Vas. “In six months times you may cross the threshold into diabetes, so these symptoms can give you a window of opportunity to do something about it.”