Of the more than 30 million people in the U.S. who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, 1 in 4 doesn’t know he or she has it, according to the American Diabetes Association. Why are they in the dark? The symptoms are easy to miss—either because they’re so mild that they go unnoticed or they’re written off as being related to something else.
You likely already know some of the more common symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes such as fatigue, excessive thirst, urinating more frequently, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. But there is a whole other list of sneakier symptoms that make early detection of diabetes a major challenge.
Many people have diabetes for years without knowing it because early symptoms can be so easy to miss. VSP network doctor Gabriela Olivares, says that’s why an annual comprehensive eye exam is critical for prevention and early detection of the disease. Diabetes affects the blood vessels in the back of your eye, which your eye doctor can see during an eye exam—often times long before you ever even experience other symptoms, according to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
Below are five easy-to-miss symptoms that could mean there’s something more going on with your health.
Your vision is wonky
If you notice fluctuations in your vision, diabetes could be to blame. According to Dr. Olivares, changes in sugar levels can lead to shifts and changes in your prescription. “The higher the blood sugar, the more myopic the patient,” says Dr. Olivares. High blood sugar can cause fluid to leak into the lens of the eye, making it swell and change shape, per the NIDDK. The result: blurry and otherwise compromised vision.
"Huh?" is a staple in your vocab
If you’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves or needing to pump up the volume to hear the TV, you may tell yourself the person is mumbling or that the sound is just too low. However, changes in hearing may be related to diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear, making it more difficult for you to hear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Your skin is super-itchy
The winter weather may not be the cause of your dry skin—especially if you’ve been dealing with it long before the first chill.
High blood sugar, along with poor circulation and nerve damage caused by diabetes can cause your skin to become extremely dry and itchy, according to the American Diabetes Association.
You have frequent yeast infections
Diabetes can throw things off in your nether regions. Yeast loves to eat sugar. If your blood glucose levels are constantly elevated, it can cause yeast to overgrow. As a result, you may experience frequent, sometimes hard-to-treat, yeast infections, the American Diabetes Association notes.
Your breath smells bad
High glucose levels can cause infection, pain, and other issues that affect your teeth, tongue, gums, and jaw. A bad taste in your mouth, bad breath, or other mouth problems may be a warning that your blood sugar is too high, notes the NIDDK.
Even if you don't relate to any of the symptoms above, having an annual eye exam is a powerful preventative health measure as part of your overall wellness, and should not be overlooked. Need coverage? Sign up for VSP Vision Care, then find a doctor near you.
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