March 22 was National American Diabetes Association Alert Day. I will be the first to admit that I had never heard of this before. So out of boredom, I did some research on diabetes. According to the CDC, 29 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Out of those 29 million, 1 in 4 people has no idea that they have the disease, or that their health is in any type of jeopardy. In case this isn’t bad enough, I was deeply disturbed when I found out that 13.2 percent of African Americans age 20 and older have diabetes, meaning that blacks are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease as non-hispanic whites. As unnerving as those stats might be, knowing the warning signs might save your life. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.

  1. You’re dehydrated and always have to pee

If you have an unquenchable thirst and can’t stop running to the bathroom, diabetes might be taking a toll on your kidneys. When excess sugar builds up in your blood, your kidneys go into overdrive to filter and absorb it. When your kidneys can’t filter the sugar quickly enough, the excess sugar is excreted into your urine, along with fluids drawn from your tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, often leaving you dehydrated.

  1. Unexplained weight loss

If you’ve recently dropped a few pounds and aren’t sure why, diabetes could be the culprit. Urinating more frequently also means you’re losing more sugar, and losing more sugar means you are losing more calories. At the same time, diabetes might prevent the sugar in your food from reaching your cells, leading to constant hunger. This combined effect can trigger rapid weight loss, especially if you have Type 1 Diabetes.

  1. Lack of energy

Diabetes might lead to fatigue due to dehydration from frequent urination, as well as the body’s struggle to use sugar for energy needs.

  1. Blurred vision

Diabetes can sometimes affect your vision. Having high blood sugar will pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of the eyes. This will impact their ability to focus. If left untreated, diabetes can cause new blood vessels to form in your retina and damage established blood vessels. If the damage persists, it could lead to vision loss and blindness.

  1. Frequent or recurring infections

Doctors have often reported frequent or recurring infections in their patients with diabetes. Though the medical community is not entirely sure why this occurs, it might have a lot to do with high levels of blood sugar impairing the body’s natural healing process and ability to fight infections. Bladder and vaginal infections are especially common in women with diabetes.

  1. Tingling or numbness in hands or feet

If you notice tingling, burning or numbness in your hands, feet or arms, excess sugar in your blood might be causing nerve damage.

Although diabetes symptoms can be difficult to manage, it’s entirely possible to live a healthy and fulfilled life with proper treatment. If you or a loved one has any of these symptoms, please talk to a doctor. The sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner you can regain control of your health.

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