According to the CDC, 37.3 million Americans are living with diabetes. «When we diagnose someone, we assume they have probably already had diabetes for about five years,» says endocrinologist Kevin Pantalone, DO. «During screenings, a certain number of people who are newly diagnosed already have been living with kidney problems and retinal issues, so they’ve had it for some time.» Here are five signs of deadly diabetes, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Fatigue is a common sign of diabetes, doctors say. «When blood sugars are high the cells in your body are not able to access the sugars they need for energy and effectively are ‘starving’,» says endocrinologist Dr Sultan Linjawi, MBBS, BSc., MRCP(UK), FRACP. «This is either as a result of an insufficient supply of insulin from the pancreas or the body has become resistant to insulin as the levels have been high over some time and the insulin is no longer working effectively (insulin resistance). The irony is that even though the remedy for the fatigue is in the bloodstream (sugar for energy), the body cannot access it and makes you feel tired. Often the symptoms of fatigue build up slowly so that you may not necessarily know just how badly you are affected until after treatment and sugar levels normalize once again.»
«Diabetic retinopathy is the number one cause of vision loss among people with diabetes,» says Russel Lazarus, B.Optom (Hons) M.Optom. «In its early stages, this disease is called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy. During these early stages, the blood vessels in the retina which have been weakened by the high concentrations of sugar in the blood, begin to leak fluid into the retina. As fluid sits in the retina, it causes blurred vision and other visual distortions. In its later stages, the disease is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy. During these stages, the retinal blood vessels begin to close and abnormal blood vessels are produced, threatening retinal detachment and vision loss.»
Are you peeing more than usual? High blood sugar can lead to increased urination, a common symptom of diabetes. «Often, what happens is people minimize the symptoms or rationalize them and they get worse until they become severe enough that they have to see someone,» says Dr. Pantalone. «They have excessive weight loss or are really tired of peeing all night.»
Obesity is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes. «Although COVID-19 is a pandemic, overweight/obesity is becoming the most common chronic disease ‘pandemic’ in the world,» says Robert Eckel, MD, professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Colorado School of Medicine Anschutz Medical Campus and immediate past president of the American Diabetes Association (ADA). «Obesity is the most important predictor of new onset type 2 diabetes.»
Excess abdominal fat is a known factor for developing dangerous diabetes. «Fat around the waist — an apple shape — is uniquely dangerous for developing diabetes and other chronic illnesses such as heart disease and kidney failure,» says Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, professor and vice chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. «Fat in the waist region is described by scientists and doctors as being ‘metabolically active’ — meaning that central fat releases hormones and other biological substances that target and damage the organs and blood vessels that contribute to diabetes and other chronic illnesses.»