Don’t overlook these health changes if you’re living with diabetes.
By Dan Roe
Managing your diabetes can feel like a full-time job. There’s the everyday reality of tracking your blood glucose levels, of course. But then you also need to monitor warning signs that your diabetes might be getting worse, which can cause problems for your eyes, stomach, skin, heart, pancreas, kidneys, hands, feet, and even your nose. It can be a lot.
Truth is, diabetes is a condition that can affect virtually every part of your body. But that doesn’t mean you have to work overtime and obsess over every potential risk. For starters—and for peace of mind—just stay on top of any new or unexplained changes to your health. Because diabetes can have a knock-on effect across your body, any changes anywhere in your body can be an early warning sign that your diabetes may be getting worse. And the sooner you act, the sooner you’ll be back in control.
Rest assured, not every case of a tingling foot or a new skin rash means “diabetes alert!” That foot could just be the way you were sitting, and that skin rash … well, did you get the humidifier out yet?
To help guide your monitoring, here are eight “hmm, that’s new” signs that might indicate your diabetes is worsening, based on the latest research and expert advice. And as always, talk to your Emcara Health team anytime you feel a sudden change in your health, whether you think it’s tied to your diabetes or otherwise.
For diabetics, needing to pee more often could mean your kidneys aren’t absorbing all of the glucose in your blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. The remaining glucose comes out through your urine, which in turn dehydrates you and causes you to feel more thirsty. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely as long as the kidneys can’t keep up with blood glucose levels. So an increase in your typical level of thirst could indicate that your kidneys are struggling more than usual.
Diabetic ketoacidosis, known simply as DKA, is one of the most serious risks for every diabetic. DKA happens when your body stops using glucose as energy due to a lack of insulin. In response, your liver takes over and begins using fat as energy, which produces acids called ketones. That’s not a problem by itself, but it can be potentially hazardous if too many ketones build up in your body. That causes DKA, which is a medical emergency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A major DKA warning sign starts with your mouth: If your breath suddenly tastes sweet or your mouth is unexplainably dry, call your doctor or your Emcara Health team immediately. Other symptoms include fast and deep breathing, headaches and body aches, stomach pain, and nausea or vomiting.
Diabetics may feel fatigued for a number of reasons related to the disease, according to medical journal Diabetes Therapy. One of the most common ones is a new up-and-down spike in blood sugar levels. But there can also be indirect causes like lack of sleep, blood circulation problems, and even vitamin deficiency. People experiencing diabetic fatigue may feel depressed and disinterested, causing them to retreat from healthy activities they previously enjoyed. If you’ve been feeling sluggish lately, talk to your Emcara Health about the potential tie-in to your diabetes.
You read that right: Weight loss. Although type 2 diabetes is frequently associated with being overweight, the disease can also cause sudden weight loss as well. When your body loses the ability to use glucose for energy, it switches to breaking down muscle tissue and fat instead. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the resulting weight loss may be rapid as your body searches for energy. Talk to your Emcara Health clinicians about any unexpected change in weight or body composition.
Diabetes can blur or decrease your vision for a number of reasons related to sustained high blood sugar, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when retinal blood vessels leak or grow in abnormal patterns on the surface of the retina. Diabetes can cause glaucoma when high blood sugar damages blood vessels and inhibits their regrowth. High blood sugar can also cause cataracts to form in your eyes sooner than usual, and leaky blood vessels can lead to swelling in the center of the retina. In fact, the entire eye lens can swell up as your blood sugar rises, causing topical blurriness in your vision. The bottom line: Sudden changes in your vision are very common signs that your diabetes is getting worse.
While many symptoms of diabetes are reversible, numbness in your hands, feet, arms, and legs could indicate permanent nerve damage due to high blood sugar. Diabetics frequently feel the tingling in their feet first, according to the CDC. Managing your blood sugar can slow the progression of this loss of sensation around the body, which is called diabetic neuropathy. Tell your doctor or Emcara Health team about ongoing or increasing numbness in any part of your body to avoid further damage.
Light or dark brown skin patches can be a sign your diabetes is progressing. The skin disorder can signal the presence of excess insulin in your bloodstream, which quickens the reproduction of skin cells. The new cells tend to have more melanin, according to the Cleveland Clinic, so they appear darker than the rest of your skin. The condition isn’t harmful by itself. But alongside corresponding symptoms like increased urination and fatigue, the patches could be a sign that your diabetes management plan isn’t keeping your insulin in check.
High blood glucose levels decrease your body’s ability to fight off infections, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Your skin can tell you when you’re not keeping your diabetes under control via bacterial and fungal infections, open sores that heal slowly, fungal infections, blisters, and generally dry skin. In addition to addressing the symptoms head-on through better disease management, the ADA also recommends topical fixes, such as avoiding hot baths and showers, preventing dry skin with moisturizers, and keeping your home humid during cold winter months.
If you’re experiencing any these symptoms, call your care team right away. To learn more about Emcara Health, call (800) 728-0901.