Diabetes afflicts nearly 19 million Americans, and the National Institute of Health has stated that an astounding 7 million additional Americans may have it as well—and remain completely unaware of it.
Going undiagnosed means going untreated, and untreated diabetes can be extremely detrimental, and even life-threatening. This means that 7 million Americans are walking around, completely in the dark that they have a life-threatening disease.
Why are so many Americans with the disease going undiagnosed? It’s not for lack of education about diabetes. Doctors and educators are extremely familiar with the disease. Most Americans have at least some familiarity with the condition. The problem appears to be that many of the symptoms can be indicative of other, less-risky conditions, and often these symptoms are mild and are easily overlooked by those suffering from them.
A diagnosis is most likely to be made when a collection of symptoms is considered together as a whole. This is where clear communication with your doctor is essential. While the symptoms viewed individually can seem quite harmless, taken together they are the surest way to identify the presence of this life-threatening disease. Symptoms for both types of diabetes, referred to as Type 1 and Type 2, are the same.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
Unexplained weight loss
Increased urination or thirst
Feeling of numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Excessively dry skin
Sores that are slow to heal
Nausea and Vomiting
Type 1 Diabetes tends to have symptoms that manifest rather suddenly. Often the symptoms will develop over the course of weeks. It is possible to have Type 1 diabetes long before the symptoms begin to appear, and the damage to certain cells may be well underway before you have the first hint that something might be wrong.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the more common of the two. The list of symptoms for Type 2 diabetes is identical to those for Type 1. The primary difference between the two is the manner by which the symptoms manifest. It can take months or even years for the symptoms to appear, and in many cases the symptoms may go unnoticed, or the person just doesn’t draw a connection between these symptoms. Just as with Type 1, the longer the condition goes without treatment, the higher the risk that more complications will occur.
Because these symptoms tend to be so similar to symptoms of other diseases, the patient can go misdiagnosed, or told that the mild symptoms are “nothing to worry about.” Periodic self-examinations for multiple symptoms is highly recommended for this reason, particularly for those at risk for the disease.
Failure to recognize these signs as potential indicators of the presence of Type 1 diabetes can be dangerous. Untreated diabetes can lead to many problems, potentially even a diabetic coma. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, a consultation with your health care provider is strongly recommended.
Your best bet, even if you don’t believe that you have any of the symptoms, is to ask your doctor to complete a blood sugar screening during your annual check-up. It is not uncommon for only a few or even none of the symptoms to have occurred prior to diagnosis. There simply is no better course of action than preemptive screening for the disease, particularly if you are obese or have had family members diagnosed with the disease.
Early diagnosis means early treatment. By paying attention to your health and any symptoms you may have, and getting a preemptive screening, it’s possible to get the early treatment you need, and avoid the damage and devastating consequences that may come from untreated diabetes.