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Could You Have Diabetes? Watch for These 5 Warning Signs


One in 11 Americans today has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. In 2013, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults.

Despite its prevalence, diabetes is often called the silent killer because its symptoms are easy to miss. Often there are no outward signs from the 29 million Americans who fight this chronic illness every day.

Diabetes can lead to serious health problems, including nerve damage, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and lower-limb amputations.

There is no better time than now to educate yourself about the common warning signs of diabetes. While the best way to find out if you have diabetes is to see your physician and take a blood sugar test, watch out for these warning signs:

1. Increased urination and thirst – Common causes of frequent urination include pregnancy, prostate problems and diabetes, particularly if you often have to get up at night to use the bathroom. In the case of diabetes, the urge to relieve yourself is your kidneys’ way of getting rid of all the extra glucose in the blood. Being thirsty indicates your body’s need to replenish those lost fluids.

2. Weight loss – Unexplained weight loss, even though you’re eating and feel hungry, is a common warning sign of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can lead to a weight loss of 10 to 20 pounds over two or three months. A loss of calories can result from the kidneys working overtime to eliminate excess sugar.

3. Increased hunger – A drop in blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia, can cause increased hunger even after eating. When blood sugar levels drop, your body thinks it hasn’t been fed and craves more glucose, which cells need to function. Hypoglycemia can come on suddenly and commonly occurs after a person with diabetes makes inappropriate food choices, fails to take appropriate medication or overeats at a meal, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also trigger hypoglycemia, which can be a life-threatening emergency. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include anxiety, confusion, heart palpitations and shakiness. Consuming high-sugar foods or drinks, such as orange juice or regular soda, can treat this condition. Alternatively, medications can be used to raise blood sugar levels. It’s also important that a doctor identify and treat the underlying cause if diabetes has not been diagnosed.

4. Fatigue – Feeling tired and weak can be the result of high blood sugar levels or attributed to your body expending more energy to compensate for a deficiency in glucose. Fatigue may also be related to lifestyle like a lack of physical activity or being at an unhealthy weight, which is common in people with type 2 diabetes.

5. Blurry vision – High blood sugar levels can also lead to distorted vision and seeing floaters or occasional flashes of light. High blood sugar causes the lens of the eye to swell and change shape, affecting your ability to see. This symptom is reversible once blood sugar levels are returned to normal. But letting your blood sugar go unchecked for long periods can cause permanent damage, including blindness.

If you have experienced any of these warning signs, call your doctor and schedule a blood glucose test.

To find a doctor near you, call Tanner’s free, 24-hour physician referral line at 770.214.CARE (2273) or select “Find a Doctor” at www.tanner.org.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, Tanner Healthy System’s Living Well With Diabetes workshop can help you learn how to manage your symptoms. The program, which was created by the CDC, is provided through Tanner’s Get Healthy, Live Well. The classes combine peer support in a small group with leadership by trained facilitators. As part of the program, participants receive one-on-one mentoring to encourage healthy changes in diet and exercise.

If you are interested in signing up for the Living Well With Diabetes workshop, register online or call 770.214.CARE (2273) for more information.

Dr. Parrish sees patients at Primary Care of Bremen, a Tanner Medical Group practice, located in Bremen, Ga. For more information, visit www.primarycare-bremen.org or call 770.537.6500.

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