The “atypical” symptoms of diabetes are becoming more and more common, and they are not easily detectable or identified as being a symptom of diabetes. As such, many people don’t know they have diabetes until complications occur. Diabetic complications can be serious and deadly, and they should not be ignored.
According to the World Health Organization’s 2021 report, one in 17 people worldwide have diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is related to genetics, and these patients can only use insulin for life. They only account for 10 percent of all diabetics. Type 2 diabetes is associated with an acquired lifestyle, accounting for 90 percent of total cases.
According to Dr. Jonathan Liu, a professor of traditional Chinese medicine at a Canadian college, a diet high in sugar, salt and oil, as well as a lifestyle of stress, staying up late, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to fatigue of the pancreas, resulting in type 2 diabetes.
The typical symptoms of diabetes include eating a lot but often hungry; drinking a lot but often thirsty (patients may drink as much as 1.5 gallons of water a day); urinating a lot, due to drinking a lot of water (patients frequently visit the restroom); and weight loss (although patients eat a lot, they can abruptly lose weight).
However, the number of patients with atypical symptoms is increasing, and the aforementioned symptoms are becoming less obvious. The patients may have the following symptoms:
- Frequent fatigue, as patients feel tired easily
- Having difficulty waking up, and patients want to sleep more
- Blurred vision
- Numbness in the limbs
- Wounds that do not heal easily
Dr. Jiang Yilun, attending physician of the Department of Endocrinology at Shin Kong Hospital, pointed out that many diabetics found out their illness only after a stroke, myocardial infarction, blurred vision, or wounds that didn’t heal easily. And these are all complications of diabetes.
Like ‘Having Your Organs Soaked in Sugar Water’
“Diabetes is like having your organs soaked in sugar water,” said Dr. Jiang. Therefore, it affects the entire body. In addition to stroke and myocardial infarction, there will be retinopathy, periodontal diseases, nephropathy, neuropathy, diabetic foot, and many other complications from head to foot.
Dr. Liu explained that this is because the blood vessels are exposed to sugar water for a long time, thus accelerating their hardening and aging, and the microcirculation will soon become impaired.
The microcirculation directly supplies oxygen and nutrients to tissue cells. So when the microcirculation is impaired, it causes damage to nerves and organs, leading to complications. These complications can be classified as chronic or acute, and these lesions are often irreversible and can even be life-threatening.
Macroangiopathy: Atherosclerosis of the brain, heart, and feet can cause stroke, myocardial infarction, and peripheral vascular obstruction. Especially when the blood supply to the feet is reduced, it will cause intermittent claudication, abnormal sensation, susceptibility to infection, slow wound healing, and in severe cases, amputation.
Microangiopathy: The main lesions are those of the kidneys and eyes.
Nephropathy: There are a lot of capillaries in the kidneys. If the blood vessels are hardened and aged, it will soon cause renal insufficiency. This can lead to proteinuria, increased blood pressure, and even chronic kidney failure, resulting in uremia and the need for lifelong dialysis.
Eye lesions: The common ones include cataracts, retinopathy, macular edema, glaucoma, and even blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness.
Neuropathy: This includes damage to the autonomic or peripheral nerves, causing palpitations, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, difficulty urinating, incontinence, postural hypotension, sexual dysfunction, numbness and tingling in the limbs, and sensory dullness.
Furthermore, when the microcirculation of the skin worsens, the skin will also become unable to maintain normal immune functions. Viruses or bacteria can easily break through the nasal mucosa, oral mucosa, and conjunctiva of the eyes, making the patient susceptible to infections.
Hyperosmolar coma: A sudden rise in blood glucose within a short period of time results in a coma.
Ketoacidosis: Insufficient insulin causes the body to produce keto acids, making the blood acidic. This phenomenon is called ketoacidosis and can also cause a coma.
Dr. Liu mentioned a case of a 56-year-old patient. He was diagnosed with diabetes a long time ago. Nevertheless, since his symptoms were not obvious and he still felt quite energetic, he never regularly took his medication, controlled his diet or exercised.
However, he experienced a sudden coma one day due to an acute complication. After being sent to the emergency room, he passed away.
Since the most frightening aspect of diabetes is the complications, Dr. Jiang stressed that patients must cooperate well with their doctors. In addition to medication, it is also recommended for them to buy ISO-certified blood glucose machines for self-glucose testing. The most important thing is to have a balanced diet, stay away from sugary drinks, not eat too many fruits, and maintain exercise habits, in order to control the disease.
mbs articles are for informational purposes and are not a substitute for individualized medical advice. Please consult a trusted professional for personal medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment.