A person checking their blood sugar levels

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed with a blood test, but there are many symptoms to look for. Sometimes they may not be obvious, which is why type 2 diabetes is often called "the silent killer."

In some cases, doctors don’t detect diabetes until long-term complications associated with the disease develop, like eye diseases and heart problems.

Most symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be easily managed or prevented by checking your blood sugar levels regularly. If you think you may have diabetes, seek treatment as soon as possible. The better you manage diabetes over time, the less like you are to develop serious complications.

1. Frequent Need to Urinate

Medically known as polyuria, this symptom can be an early sign of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. When blood sugar levels became elevated (above 160-180 mg/dL), glucose starts to leak into the urine. As the amount of glucose in the urine increases, the kidneys start to work harder to eliminate more water in an attempt to dilute the urine. As a result, a diabetic will feel the urge to urinate more often.

2. Increased Thirst

This symptom goes hand in hand with the first one, and develops because you are urinating more; the body becomes dehydrated and will send signals to the brain to get more water. Drinking more water will aggravate the need to urinate more, creating a vicious cycle.

3. Increased hunger

Glucose has calories. Since it is eliminated in the urine, the body will lose calories. To compensate, a diabetic will feel hungry. In addition, diabetes keeps glucose from reaching the cells it should be and providing energy, further aggravating the sensation of hunger.

4. Vision Problems

Diabetics sometimes experience blurred vision, which happens because high levels of glucose pull fluid from bodily tissues, including the lenses of the eyes. If diabetes is not treated, the damage to the eyes will become worse, as new blood vessels form and affect the old ones in the retina. The result is diabetic retinopathy, which can complicate with vision loss and even total blindness.

5. Weakness, Tingling, and Numbness

Weakness, tingling, and numbness suggest nerve damage caused by excess sugar in the blood. This is most likely if someone’s diabetes has gone unnoticed or uncontrolled over a long period of time. If a single nerve is affected, an arm or leg may feel weak. If many nerves are affected (a condition is known as diabetic polyneuropathy), one may lose sensation in the hands and feet and feel tingling. Others may experience a burning pain in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. If the nerves of the skin are damaged, a person may not sense changes in pressure or temperature.

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6. Swollen, Tender Gums

Swollen, tender gums and various infections can all be symptoms of diabetes. Diabetes weakens the body’s ability to fight germs, and therefore increasing the risk of infections. The gums pulls away from teeth, the teeth may become lose and sores or pockets of pus may develop.

This problem becomes even more serious if there was a gum infection before the onset of diabetes. Besides gum infections, a diabetic can also suffer from frequent infections in various parts of the body. For example, diabetic women tend to have more bladder and vaginal infections.

7. Sores, Ulcers and Gangrene

Slow healing sores occur when blood vessels are affected by high sugar levels, disturbing the body’s ability to heal. Because the nerves in the skin can be affected, a diabetic may have injured themselves without feeling it. These injuries can progress into deeper lesions — skin ulcers — which can ultimately turn into gangrene.

Gangrene is a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition when the skin, muscles and other tissues die because the blood supply is lost. It is treated with surgery and amputation may be needed. Diabetics are far more likely than healthy people to have a foot or leg amputated because of deep infected ulcers and gangrene.

8. Heart Attacks and Stroke

Heart attacks and strokes are possible long-term complications of diabetes, especially when it is not properly managed. These life-threatening conditions develop because fatty material builds up and blocks major arteries that supply blood to the heart and brain. The walls of the small blood vessels are also damaged and therefore the normal transfer of the oxygen to the tissues is impaired.

9. Kidney Problems

Kidney problems are another possible long-term complication. These problems develop slowly, over a period of years. The blood vessels in the kidney start to malfunction as they become thicker, blood is not filtered properly, and protein leaks into the urine (a condition called proteinuria). These issues can lead to kidney failure.

10. Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Studies reveal that 35-75% of diabetic men will have some degree of erectile dysfunction during their lifetime. It is also known that diabetic men will develop ED 10-15 years earlier compared with men without diabetes.

In order to have an erection, a man needs healthy nerves, blood vessels, hormones and the desire to have sex. Diabetes can affect the nerves and the blood vessels that control erection. Thus, even if the diabetic man has normal sexual desire and healthy levels of testosterone, he may not be able to achieve erection because of the nerve and blood vessel damage. In addition, some drugs (i.e. prescribed heart diseases, depression, and anti-inflammatory) can also impair the ability to become erect.

11. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel manifests with weakness, numbness and tingling as well as pain in the thumb, index and middle fingers, which typically worsens at night. This condition develops because glucose not used properly by the body, making connective tissues thicken or contract.

Dupuytren's contracture is another condition more likely to affect diabetics. The affected tissues are under the skin of the palm. In this case a hand deformity develops over years as knots of tissue build up under the skin, causing a thick cord that pulls the fingers in a bent position.

Read more about prediabetes and preventing type 2 diabetes over at NewLifeOutlook.