In the time it takes you to scroll through Facebook, find and read this article, someone will develop diabetes. That’s one Aussie every five minutes, according to Diabetes Australia. And it’s estimated there are up to half a million of us living with what’s called ‘silent’ undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.
Why ‘silent’? Because diabetes often has no symptoms at all. “You can have it and it can be doing some damage, but you can be completely unaware for quite a long time,” says Associate Professor Neale Cohen of The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. That said, there are sometimes a few clues to look out for...
Constantly parched? When your body doesn’t produce insulin or function as it should, glucose from food can’t be adequately processed, which in turn leads to abnormally high levels of sugar in the bloodstream. So? “When you have a high sugar level, your kidneys [work so you] pee out the sugar – and when the sugar goes out in the urine, it takes fluid with it,” explains Cohen. Hello, heaps of bathroom trips – another sign to watch out for.
Another clue to look out for is feeling tired or weak. Why? “Even though you have high sugar levels, your body’s not utilising the sugar properly,” explains Cohen. “You haven’t got enough energy going into your cells, if you like.”
Your optometrist may be able to spot signs of diabetes – some people can experience eye issues with it, such as blurred vision. How come? “When you have poorly controlled sugar levels, it affects the tiny little blood vessels everywhere in the body,” says Cohen. “That matters in a number of places, particularly in the eyes where if they bleed you lose vision.” Keep an eye out.
People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of gum disease – experts aren’t 100 per cent sure why, says Cohen. “We generally link [it] back to damage to tiny blood vessels [which leads] to poor healing,” he explains. “The other thing is you can get nasty bacterial infections if your sugars are really high and poorly controlled.”
Concerned? Check in with your doc. Also get proactive and know your risk.