More than 240,000 people in New Zealand have been diagnosed with diabetes but it’s estimated a further 100,000 people have it but don’t realise, according to Ministry of Health figures.
Diabetes is a condition where the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood is too high. If not controlled, high blood glucose levels can lead to damage in many parts of your body. The most common types are known as type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes may not have any symptoms for many years. Symptoms may be mild and get worse slowly. Type 1 diabetes causes symptoms quickly, sometimes in only a few weeks. Symptoms may be severe.
Diabetes can be diagnosed through blood tests but the earlier the disease is diagnosed the better. Here are some early signs to watch out for:
Feeling thirsty and needing to pee all the time
Excessive thirst is one of the first signs of diabetes. High levels of glucose in your blood forces your kidneys into overdrive, drawing more water from your tissues in an attempt to remove the excess glucose.
When your kidneys can't keep up, the excess glucose is excreted into your urine, dragging along fluids from your tissues, which makes you dehydrated. This will usually leave you feeling thirsty. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you'll urinate even more – so the need to pee all the time is another sign of diabetes.
When glucose can’t enter your cells you can’t convert food into energy, so you'll feel hungry even if you have eaten.
Diabetes symptoms sometimes involve your vision. High levels of blood glucose pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of your eyes. This affects your ability to focus.
Slow-healing and recurring infections
High levels of blood glucose can lead to poor blood flow and impair your body's natural healing process. Because of this, people with diabetes may notice sores and bruises are slow to heal and that they are more prone to infections.
High blood glucose interferes with your body’s ability to use glucose for energy. Dehydration from increased urination also can leave you feeling fatigued.
Tingling/numbness in feet or hands
Too much glucose can affect how your nerves work, known as diabetic neuropathy. You may notice tingling and loss of sensation (numbness) in your hands and feet, as well as a burning pain in your arms, hands, legs and feet.
As diabetes makes it harder for your body to fight viruses and bacteria, your risk of gum infection increases. Diabetes may weaken your ability to fight germs, which increases the risk of infection in your gums and in the bones that hold your teeth in place.
Take these signs seriously
If you notice any possible diabetes signs or symptoms, contact your doctor. Diabetes is a serious condition, and the earlier it's diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin. With the support of your health care team, you can manage diabetes and enjoy an active, healthy life.
Learn more about: