When most people think of diabetes, they might have a stereotype-driven picture in their head that isn't necessarily accurate. But diabetes is a common disease that can strike anyone, and sometimes there are plenty of early signs of diabetes that are subtle, so subtle in fact, that you might not even be paying much attention to them. Noticing little changes in your body can help you get a diagnosis, and knowing you have diabetes, or on track to get diabetes, can help you make the right lifestyle choices to get your health back on track.
"Over a third of the 25 million Americans with type 2 diabetes — a disorder where blood sugar runs high, causing prematurely cellular aging — have no unusual symptoms," says Dr. Robert Huizenga over email. "But they are still at risk for all the diabetic complications."
Type 1 diabetes symptoms usually appear suddenly, but for type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, the symptoms can be gradual and much less obvious. If you suspect that there might be any issues, the best thing to do is get a blood test to check your blood sugar levels, which can determine whether or not you have diabetes.
If you're not sure whether you're at risk, consider these 11 subtle signs you could have diabetes.
1You Have To Pee Often
"Diabetes can cause your body to become less efficient at breaking down your food into sugar, which causes the sugar to remain in your bloodstream for longer periods of time," says Dr. Keri Peterson, an internist who works with digital health platform ZocDoc, over email. "The only way your body can get rid of this excess sugar is by flushing it out, causing you to head to the bathroom more often than usual."
2You're Really Thirsty All The Time
If you find that you're constantly reaching for water, it could be a sign of diabetes. "[Constant dehydration' occurs as a result of increased urination," says integrative health expert Dr. Taz Bhatia over email. "Due to the excess fluid loss, you become very thirsty."
3Dark Skin On The Sides Of Your Neck
Diabetes can cause acanthosis nigricans, or darkened skin on the side of the neck. "Perspiration and friction in the face or increased insulin and growth factors seem to cause this interesting dermatologic rash," says Huizenga.
Never needed glasses before, but suddenly everything is blurry? This could be a result of your blood sugar and possible diabetes. "Excess sugar in the blood pulls fluids out of your cells and tissue throughout the body, including your eyes, which can affect your vision," says Bhatia.
5Pins & Needles In Hands & Feet
Tingling and numbness in your hands and feet could also be a sign of diabetes. "Too much sugar in your body begins to affect nerve-endings, resulting in a tinging feeling in your fingers and toes," says Bhatia.
Feeling hungry all the time, but not sure why? It's possible your blood sugar is to blame. "Since blood sugar is not being regulated and fluctuates from high to low levels, the brain thinks you need food and sparks the feeling of hunger," says Bhatia.
7Always Feeling Tired
"A persistent feeling of fatigue is another subtle sign to look out for," says Peterson. "This could mean that your food isn’t being broken down to provide fuel for your body which can cause an overall feeling of exhaustion or constant sluggishness."
8Your Cuts Take Awhile To Heal
Diabetes can cause slower-than-usual healing for injuries. "High blood sugar levels can have an adverse effect on your immune system," says Peterson. "Take note if your cuts are continuously taking a longer time to clot and scab."
9You Have Frequent Infections
"Diabetes impairs the body’s immune system, and a person with undiagnosed diabetes is at risk for all infections," says Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, board-certified physician in family and integrative medicine, over email. "The most common infections that I see in women are recurrent vaginal yeast infections, or yeast infections of the mouth, known as thrush."
10Unexplained Weight Loss
"This is obvious because it can happen fast," says Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O. over email. "A person with diabetes can lose between 10 and 20 pounds within a few weeks. Family and friends will take notice and your clothes will start to feel big."
11You Have Bad Breath
If your breath is smelling less than ideal, and it has nothing to do with your hygiene habits, it could have something to do with diabetes. "Ketones from fat breakdown rise in individuals with out-of-control diabetes, which when exhaled out of lungs, has an unpleasant fruity smell," says Huizenga.