Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

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Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which your glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose comes from the food you eat and is supposed to be used as a main energy source. But in people with type 2 diabetes, that process doesn’t work properly. Instead, blood glucose builds up in the bloodstream and causes health problems.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop slowly, over the course of years.

Sometimes the symptoms are so mild that you might not notice them. Some people might never develop symptoms, only finding out they have type 2 diabetes after the development of complications like heart disease.

While it's possible to have type 2 diabetes without realizing it, it's still good to know the symptoms of this common disease in case you do show any signs of the condition. After all, early detection reduces the risk of complications.

Signs and Symptoms

Type 2 diabetes can affect a variety of everyday functions. The disease can also affect the health of your skin, eyes, and gums. Sometimes, these changes in function and health can be the initial signs of type 2 diabetes. 

Frequent Urination 

Having to go to the bathroom more than usual is a potential sign of type 2 diabetes. The condition of frequent urination is known as polyuria.

Oftentimes, the increased need to urinate happens at night. Having to go to the bathroom more frequently at night is known as nocturia.

You might need to urinate more because your body is making more urine than usual. The excess glucose that people with type 2 diabetes have can make its way into the urine. Glucose itself also draws water into the urine. Because there is more liquid that needs to leave the body, you’ll need to urinate more.

Excessive Thirst 

Frequent urination goes hand-in-hand with excessive thirst. Because higher levels of glucose can lead to more urination, your body winds up losing an excessive amount of fluids. The thirst is your body telling you that it wants to keep up with the loss of fluids.

The medical term for unusually extreme thirst is polydipsia. 

Increased Hunger

A bigger appetite than usual could be a sign of diabetes. This hunger exists even though you’ve been eating. The condition is known as polyphagia.

This symptom is connected to the excessive loss of urinel. As the glucose is let out in the urine, so are the calories in that glucose. That loss of calories can lead to a feeling of hunger.

Unexplained Weight Loss

When you eat, the food turns into glucose. That glucose is supposed to be moved from the bloodstream to cells, where it becomes an energy source for your body.

But with type 2 diabetes, that process doesn’t work properly. Instead, the glucose builds up in the bloodstream, which means your body doesn’t get the energy it needs from glucose. 

To get the energy it still needs, your body may begin to burn muscle and fat. As your body takes from these parts, you can lose weight.

Fatigue

Someone with type 2 diabetes may experience physical or mental exhaustion.

This fatigue might be due to glucose levels not being under control. Because the hormone insulin cannot properly move glucose to be used for energy, you may develop fatigue.

Blurry Vision 

Changes in glucose levels can cause swelling in the tissue of your eyes. Since those tissues help you focus, the change can lead to blurry vision.

This problem is often temporary. When your glucose levels go back to normal, the swelling subsides, and your vision will no longer be blurry.

Increase in Infections

High glucose levels make it harder for the immune system to defend against infection. Plus, the extra glucose creates an environment where bacteria can readily grow, which means infections can develop more quickly.

Common infections among people with type 2 diabetes include infections of the:

  • Ear, nose, and throat
  • Urinary tract
  • Kidney
  • Skin and soft tissue, especially in the legs

 Infections are not only more common, but they might also take longer to heal.

Skin Changes

Skin conditions are sometimes a signal of diabetes. These problems include bacterial and fungal infections, which people with type 2 diabetes are more prone to developing.

Itching is another skin-related problem that might be a sign of type 2 diabetes. The itchiness would be limited to a particular area of the body. A yeast infection, dry skin, or poor circulation might cause the itchiness. When poor circulation is the cause of itching, the itchiest areas may be the lower parts of the legs.

 Cuts and bruises also might take longer to heal than usual. 

Your skin might also be very dry.

Unusual Feelings in Your Feet

Blood sugar levels that are too high for too long can damage nerves. If your nerves are damaged, you might experience changes in sensation at different areas of your body. The nerve damage is known as diabetic neuropathy.

The most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral nerve damage. This might feel like numbness, tingling, pain, increased sensitivity, or weakness. These feelings usually start in your feet but can also affect your hands, legs, and arms. The damage usually develops slowly.

Changes to Your Teeth and Gums

Diabetes can change your saliva in a couple ways. The change in saliva can go on to affect your teeth and gums. 

First, with diabetes, you might create less salvia. Saliva helps fight cavities and gum disease in part by washing away food particles. With less saliva, you have less help in getting rid of cavity-causing particles. Saliva also has minerals that can help protect gums. Less saliva means reduced gum protection.

Second, if you have glucose levels, there could be more glucose in your saliva. The increased glucose in saliva can lead to plaque, which can lead to gum disease. 

Gum disease has different stages of severity, ranging from gum inflammation to tooth loss. Gums that are red, swollen, or bleeding could be a sign of gum disease.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have symptoms of diabetes, it’s recommended you visit a healthcare provider about your glucose levels. Glucose levels can be measured through blood tests and are what is used to make a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

It’s possible to not notice any symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Because of this, it’s important for those who are at risk for the condition to get their glucose tested. That includes people who have prediabetes, are at least 45 years old, or who have an immediate family member with type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes that goes undiagnosed and untreated can lead to health complications. And while type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, a range of management techniques—from lifestyle modifications to medications—can help diminish symptoms and ward off complications. 

A Quick Review

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition characterized by high levels of blood sugar. Sometimes, there might not be any symptoms of type 2 diabetes. If there are symptoms, they develop slowly. Some of the symptoms include an increase in urination, thirst, or hunger. You might also experience changes in your dental, eye, or skin health. If you suspect that you might be experiencing any symptoms of type 2 diabetes, you should consider speaking with a healthcare provider. Early detection of the disease is key to getting your blood sugar under control and preventing further complications.

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