Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
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Why is it so important to recognize signs and symptoms of prediabetes and diabetes?
- More than 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes.
- More than 1 in 8 American adults have diabetes.
- Noticing signs and symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes can motivate you to take steps to control blood sugar and prevent further health concerns.
Diabetes is among the most common chronic conditions in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 34.1 million American adults have diabetes, including14.3 million adults 65 or older. Another 88 million adults have prediabetes and are at high risk for developing diabetes if they do not take measures to lower blood sugar.
The good news is that you can lower your risk for diabetes if you have prediabetes, and lower your risk for diabetes complications if you have it. Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) for people with prediabetes, and Lark for Diabetes for people with diabetes, provide 24/7 coaching to help make healthy lifestyle choices on a daily basis.
Classic Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
Noticeable signs and symptoms of diabetes are related to high levels of blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association lists these common symptoms.
- Increased thirst and more frequent urination
- Tingling or numbness in your fingers or feet
- Increased hunger
- Unexplained low energy levels
- Blurred vision
- Slower healing of cuts and minor wounds
Still, it is important to know that not only might you not get symptoms with diabetes, but you are unlikely to have symptoms with prediabetes. That is why you should know your risk and, if you are unsure or are at high risk for prediabetes or diabetes, get a blood sugar test to determine if you have prediabetes or diabetes.
High Blood Sugar without Symptoms in Prediabetes or Diabetes
Not everyone with high blood sugar has signs or symptoms. If you have diabetes, you may not have signs or symptoms if your blood sugar is well controlled or if your diabetes has not been present for long.
If you have prediabetes, you are unlikely to have symptoms. That is because blood sugar is not yet high enough to cause the classic symptoms of diabetes. A minority of people with prediabetes may develop one or two symptoms.
- Acanthosis nigricans, in which patches of skin become darker and velvety. This can happen in the armpits, behind the elbows, or at the back of the neck.
- Blurry vision or vision changes. This can happen due to early stages of diabetes retinopathy.
If you do not have symptoms, but you have risk factors for prediabetes or diabetes, it is important to get your blood sugar tested and to begin treatment. If you have prediabetes, Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) can help you make lifestyle changes that have been proven to lower the risk for diabetes by over 50%. If you have diabetes, Lark for Diabetes can help you make choices to keep blood sugar in check.
Signs that Prediabetes Is Progressing
Symptoms may occur if prediabetes progresses to diabetes and blood sugar rises. This can also happen if you have type 2 diabetes and blood sugar is poorly controlled or was controlled and then gets off kilter for some reason.
Excessively high blood sugar can cause these symptoms.
- Increased thirst and more frequent need to urinate. The thirst results from too much sugar in your blood, similar to excessive thirst when you eat salty foods, and the extra urination comes from the need to excrete that extra water and sugar.
- Fatigue, which results from your cells literally being low on energy because they are unable to get the glucose, or sugar, that they need due to insulin resistance.
- Weight loss and hunger, again as the result of insulin resistance. Instead of extra sugar from carbs in your food being converted to and stored as fat, it gets excreted from your body.
These can be signs of imbalances that can be dangerous, so it is important to consult a doctor if you have them.
Diabetes Signs and Symptoms in Men vs. Women
The way type 2 diabetes develops in men versus women is the same, with insulin resistance gradually developing and blood sugar levels eventually rising. However, men have higher rates of diabetes, according to the CDC. In the period from 2013 to 2016, 14.0% of American men, compared to 12.0% of women, had diabetes, with 90 to 95% of cases being type 2 diabetes.
The higher prevalence of diabetes among men may be partly related to men being biologically more susceptible than women. One study, published in Diabetologia, looked at the relationship between body weight and diabetes diagnosis among 51,920 men and 43,137 women. Results showed that men tend to be diagnosed with diabetes at a lower body mass index (BMI) than women - that is, when they were less obese.
On the other hand, a different research study had different conclusions after looking at BMI and risk for complications. This study, published in Southern Medical Journal, found that higher BMI was linked to a higher risk for complications for both men and women, but that men tended to have a higher BMI when complications of diabetes developed. Together, these studies suggest that a high BMI can be dangerous for men and women.
Many of the signs of diabetes are the same in men and women, but the NIDDK identifies some differences.
Diabetes signs in men can include:
- Erectile dysfunction (ED), which means you cannot achieve or hold an erection for long enough to have acceptable intercourse. The NIDDK says that half of men with diabetes get ED, and are three times more likely than men without diabetes to get ED.
- Low testosterone, or "low T," can happen as you age, and is more likely when you are overweight and/or have type 2 diabetes. Testosterone is a sex hormone, and low levels can lead to depression, lack of energy, or reduced sex drive. Testosterone therapy with a patch, gel, or injection, can help, but it has side effects.
- Fertility problems, such as retrograde ejaculation, in which semen goes into the bladder instead of the penis.
Women can experience signs of diabetes such as the following.
- Painful sex
- Low sexual desire
- Fertility problems
Although discussing diabetes signs that are related to sex can seem embarrassing, it is important to bring up any concerns with your doctor. Healthcare providers are trained to talk about these issues, and they can help you keep your sexual life as healthy and fulfilling as possible.
Knowing Your Risk for Diabetes or Complications of Diabetes
Since you may not have symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes, it can help to know whether you have risk factors for them. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include both nonmodifiable and modifiable factors. You are at higher risk for prediabetes and diabetes if any of the following apply to you.
- Age over 45
- Family history of diabetes
- Overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- High total or LDL, or low HDL, cholesterol, or high triglycerides or blood pressure
- Certain minorities, such as Asian American, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or African American.
You can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by losing extra pounds, eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and managing health conditions such as high cholesterol or blood pressure. Managing diabetes also depends on choices you make every day. If you have prediabetes, your healthcare provider may cover Lark DPP. If you have diabetes, your insurance may cover Lark for Diabetes. Lark offers an entirely-digital program that is convenient and easy to follow.
What Is Diabetes and When Do Symptoms Occur?
Normally, blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels rise after a meal as your body processes the carbohydrates and other nutrients in it. The increase in blood sugar triggers the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin helps lowerblood sugar levels back down by allowing the extra glucose to get into the cells of your body that need it for energy, and storing the rest as fat.
How Diabetes Develops
Diabetes is a condition that develops when blood glucose levels are higher than normal. It can happen when:
- Your pancreas do not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes).
- The cells of your body are resistant to the effects of insulin (type 2 diabetes).
- Your body does not produce enough insulin to keep up with your body's demand (type 2 diabetes).
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, when cells can become more insulin resistant than normal.
Prediabetes is a condition that develops before type 2 diabetes as insulin resistance develops and progresses. With prediabetes, blood sugar is higher than normal, but lower than it is in diabetes.
When Symptoms of Diabetes Develop
Prediabetes rarely comes with symptoms, but it can cause acanthosis nigricans or changes in vision. Diabetes symptoms, or signs of high blood sugar, are more likely when diabetes has been present for a while or blood sugar is uncontrolled.
Preventing Symptoms of Diabetes
Controlling blood sugar is the best way to prevent symptoms of diabetes. Lowering blood sugar can help reverse prediabetes or prevent diabetes if you have prediabetes. If you have diabetes, lowering blood sugar can help prevent symptoms and complications.
Lark DPP and Lark for Diabetes provide coaching on steps that you can take to manage blood sugar. These can include making small changes in lifestyle choices, such as the following.
- Eating a healthier diet, such as choosing whole grains instead of refined grains, and limiting added sugars.
- Increasing physical activity to at least 150 minutes per week as long as your doctor recommends it.
- Taking any prediabetes or diabetes medications as prescribed.
- Getting enough sleep each night.
- Managing stress.
These are some take-home messages.
- It is important to recognize signs and symptoms of diabetes.
- It is possible to have high blood sugar and prediabetes or diabetes even without any symptoms of diabetes, so it is important to know your risk and ask your doctor if you should be tested.
- The most effective ways to lower blood sugar include daily choices that you can make.
- Lark offers personalized coaching to help turn healthy choices into long-term habits.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes are an indication that blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, so if you have them, it is time to take control! It may also be time to take charge even if you do not have signs and symptoms, since prediabetes and diabetes do not always come with symptoms. You may be elible for Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) or Lark for Diabetes if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, or if you have one or more risk factors such as being overweight or obese, being over 45 years old, being physically inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
Lark DPP and Lark for Diabetes offer personalized coaching through your smartphone to help manage prediabetes and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Your Lark coach is always available to help with lifestyle choices that can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, or complications or symptoms of diabetes. Lark is designed to help you establish healthy habits around areas, such as weight loss, nutrition, physical activity, and even sleep and stress management, that can effectively lower blood sugar and help avoid symptoms of diabetes. Plus, you may even get a free scale or Fitbit!
The entire program could be available at no cost to you if your health insurer participates. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! Lark is completely convenient and ready to chat whenever you are. You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to managing prediabetes and improving health.