5 Unusual Symptoms of Diabetes
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

5 Unusual Symptoms of Diabetes

Whether your newly diagnosed or have been living with diabetes for years (or even decades), it’s important to stay on top of and manage your blood sugar levels. Untreated, diabetes can lead to severe, and in some cases, life-threatening complications.

Because diabetes affects every system in your body, it is important to be aware of all the potential symptoms. Common symptoms that often lead people to get their initial diagnosis include:

- Urinating often

- Feeling very thirsty

- Feeling very hungry—even though you are eating

- Extreme fatigue

- Blurry vision

- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

- Weight loss—even though you are eating more (type 1)

- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

However, there are less-common symptoms and complications that can also occur. Here is a look at five symptoms that should not be ignored.

1. Gum Disease

Characterized by your gums pulling away from your teeth, periodontitis, or gum disease, is more common and severe in people with diabetes than others. An infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place, gum disease can lead to pain, persistent bad breath, chewing difficulties, and even tooth loss.

2. Hearing Loss

High blood sugar levels can damage small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear resulting in hearing loss. Because the damage is structural, it is not reversible.

3. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs are more common in people with diabetes than those without diabetes. The source of the issue is bacteria, which feed on sugar in the blood. The higher your blood sugar levels, the bigger the buffet for the bacteria. As well-fed bacteria multiply, the risk for infection goes up. Sugar also suppresses your immune system making it harder for your body to fight the infection.

4. Skin Changes

High levels of insulin in the bloodstream cause skin cells to reproduce faster than normal and can lead to several skin conditions.

For example, diabetic dermopathy presents as light brown, scaly patches on the skin, often on the shins. While it does not usually cause discomfort, it can be a cosmetic concern.

On the other hand, digital sclerosis causes thickening of the skin on the fingers and toes, making them tight and waxy. Over time, the condition can cause discomfort and limit joint mobility.

5. Recurring Infections

Having too much sugar in your blood stream makes it difficult for white blood cells to get to infection sites and battle with bacteria and fungus. With a weakened immune system, people with diabetes tend to have recurring infections throughout the body including:

- Hair follicles 

- Nail beds 

- Eyes (sty)

- Athlete's foot

- Vaginal yeast infections

- Bladder infections

If you have any symptoms of diabetes that do not improve or worsen over time, make an appointment to see your doctor. Diabetes cannot be cured, but the right treatment plan can work to prevent serious complications.


Paula Haytko, RN is a diabetes educator at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

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