Do you know that one in every two Indians living with diabetes is unaware of the fact that they even have this disease?
No, this is not just a random number that we are throwing at you. This stat is from a 2019 study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF), Chennai, and the Harvard School of Public Health-in collaboration with other international organizations.
Well, this is a good enough reason to understand this non-communicable but fatal disease a little better.
So first, let’s understand what diabetes is
Diabetes boils down to insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates to produce energy. That’s how insulin helps in keeping the blood sugar levels in check. So, when you get diabetes, two things happen:
In both situations, there is an accumulation of sugar in your body.
Diabetes is a progressive illness which over the time invites many other problems and can severely hamper quality of life.
You will also be shocked to know that diabetes at times has unusual symptoms that it becomes hard to understand whether or not you have the disease.
That’s why we got Dr Sneha Kothari, who is a consultant endocrinologist at Global Hospital in Mumbai, to tell us about some surprising symptoms of diabetes that you must be aware of:
1. Sudden weight loss
“When our body doesn’t produce insulin, the cells don’t get enough glucose to use for energy. Because of that, our body starts burning fat and muscle mass to produce energy and that’s why a sudden drop in overall body weight is seen,” explains Dr Kothari.
2. Darkening of skin around the neck area
This symptom can be seen in people dealing with type 2 diabetes. “Known as acanthosis nigricans, this is a possible warning sign of diabetes. There is a development of dark patches on your skin, particularly around your neck, and rarely around your armpit or groin area,” she says.
A common occurrence in people with type 2 diabetes, it is a marker of insulin resistance.
3. Fruity-smelling breath
When your body becomes incapable of using insulin for energy, it uses fat content–during this process ketones are produced in your body. When this fat is broken down in energy then during that process a fruity or nail polish like smell is produced which you can feel in your breath.
“If you or someone near you are experiencing this problem then you must immediately visit a specialist,” suggests Dr Kothari.
4. Blurring of vision
If your eyesight is giving you a hard time and you are planning to visit an ophthalmologist, then it’s time to give it another thought because it can be a sign of diabetes too.
“A person with diabetes may experience blurred vision due to fluctuations that cause the eye lens to swell. This can only be treated when you can control your blood sugar,” says Dr Kothari.
5. Recurring infections
When you have diabetes, your immune system takes a hit. Because of this, there are higher chances of you getting vaginal and skin infections.
Dr Kothari says: “As there is a lot of sugar travelling in the bloodstream, it becomes hard for the white blood cells to travel to fight germs. As a result, you get more prone to have infections. Yeast thrives on glucose hence chronic yeast infections is one of the signs of diabetes. Similarly recurrent urinary tract infection and boils on the skin are common.”
6. Pain in your limbs
“High blood glucose can damage nerve fibers throughout your body. This typically affects the nerves in your hands and feet. This damage causes itching and a burning sensation at times. In addition, blood vessel damage decreases circulation in your limbs. This causes dry skin leading to itching and peeling,” explains Dr Kothari.
7. Delayed wound healing
This is another symptom which can give you a heads-up for diabetes. According to Dr Kothari, if you have a cut or a big bite-and it is taking far too long to heal, then you’ve got a red flag on your hands and you mustn’t ignore it.
She says: “High blood sugar leads to a drop in the amount of oxygen in the body. Due to less oxygen, wound healing takes time.”
8. Unexplained mood swings
“As there is a constant increase and decrease in blood sugar levels, some people experience mood swings as an early symptom of diabetes,” she explains.
Frequent vomiting and feeling of nausea might not always be good news. Dr Kothari says: “In diabetes, due to the excess flow of sugar in the bloodstream, nerve damage happens. Due to this, food might not travel properly from your stomach to intestine. There are chances that the food is pushed back in the stomach resulting in vomiting and feeling of nausea.”
Flabbergasted? Well, now come out of it and keep a tab on all the above-mentioned symptoms, to ensure you catch diabetes in time.