You’ve heard of diabetes before--and it's likely you know someone who has it. Across the country, more than 29 million people suffer from diabetes, yet 1 in 4 Americans don’t even know they have it.
Yep, you read that last part right. 1 in 4 Americans is living their life completely unaware that they have a serious disease that could have been prevented.
Dina Ibrahim, M.D., a family medicine physician with Henry Ford Health, shares potential warning signs that a diabetes diagnosis could be in your future:
- You’re urinating a lot. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a resistance of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. This resistance causes the level of sugar to increase and eventually become toxic – so toxic that the body has to get rid of it. “Blood is like a highway system that transports sugar throughout the body,” says Dr. Ibrahim. “Once in the blood, the body either has to store the glucose, use it or urinate it out." Your increased urination is caused by this excess sugar that the body has to release, and is often one of the earliest warning signs you may be on a path toward diabetes. Urinating excessively also causes dehydration and dry mouth.
- You’re craving sugary liquids. When there is an insulin resistance, the proper amount of sugar isn’t getting to the organs, which causes them to work without sufficient nourishment. The lack of glucose in the organs can lead to cravings for sweet and sugary drinks so that the organs to get more energy quickly.
- You’re getting a lot of infections. When sugar levels in the blood are too high, communication within the immune system is impaired, which can cause repeat infections or longer recovery times. "A normal infection will be hard to get rid of or will keep returning because of diabetes,” explains Dr. Ibrahim. “One patient suffered through recurring yeast infections, and eventually we determined the cause was diabetes.”
- You’re experiencing blurry vision. If sugar reaches a certain level in the blood, it can cause blurry vision--or what feels like a cloud or a film over the eyes. Unlike other warning signs, such as dry mouth or fatigue (which can be easily overlooked), blurry vision cannot be ignored. While blurry vision is a warning sign of diabetes, permanent sight loss is a complication that can occur after years of having the disease.
Having any of these symptoms doesn’t guarantee you have diabetes, as warning signs can become present as early as 5 years before any diagnosis is made. (Or they may be an indication of another health issue.) If you identify with any of these symptoms, Dr. Ibrahim recommends that you talk with your doctor – especially if you are over age 45.
There are ways to potentially reverse these warning signs and prevent the onset of diabetes once you recognize them. One way is to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, like soda, sweetened coffee drinks and other beverages. Being overweight is correlated with Type 2 diabetes, so losing weight through calorie restriction and exercise – even just 10 minutes per day to start – can help you avoid getting diabetes.
To find a doctor or request an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). To learn more about weight loss through nutrition and exercise, visit our EatWell and MoveWell sections.
Dr. Dina Ibrahim is a family medicine physician at Henry Ford Medical Center – Royal Oak.