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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: Katarzyna Wieczorek-Szukała, MD, PhD, medical biotechnologist, Medical University of Lodz

Unusual symptoms of diabetes can affect many aspects of everyday life. Some of them are embarrassing and embarrassing - they are easy to identify, but we rarely associate them with diabetes. Find out what symptoms may be related to developing diabetes and what should make us alert.

Diabetes mellitus is sometimes called the first non-infectious epidemic in the world. As a serious metabolic disease, it is one of the greatest civilization problems of modern times. Chronic elevated blood glucose levels - hyperglycemia - can affect the he alth of most tissues and the physiology of a huge number of processes in the body. The disease may go undiagnosed for many years, so it is worth paying attention to the number ofunusual symptoms of diabetes .

Where does diabetes come from?

The causes of developing diabetes depend primarily on its form. The World He alth Organization (WHO) distinguishes as many as 4 types of this metabolic disease:

  • Diabetes mellitus type 1 (also known as insulin dependent or juvenile)
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2 (also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or adulthood diabetes)
  • Type 3 diabetes (referred to as secondary)
  • Gestational diabetes

Diabetes mellitus type 1 most often affects children and young people, mainly before the age of 30. Although this variant of the disease accounts for only about 1/10 of all diabetes cases, due to its occurrence at a young age, it can have dramatic effects on the developing body.

The disease is caused by autoimmune changes that gradually destroy the β cells found in the pancreas (in structures known as the islets of Langerhans) - responsible for the secretion of insulin. Chronic disease leads to a complete suppression of the production of this hormone over time.

Treatment is based on the administration of insulin in the form of subcutaneous injections, thanks to which it is possible to metabolize carbohydrates from meals. Untreated type 1 diabetes in many cases also shortens life by up to several years, and is often a fatal disease.

Type 2 diabetes is a much more frequently diagnosed disease, especially in adultsand older (estimated that it accounts for as much as 90% of all diabetes cases in the world). One of the main reasons for its development, apart from genetic factors, is obesity and the chronic inflammatory processes associated with it.

This variant of the disease, unlike type 1, is characterized by insulin deficiency (damaged Langerhans islet cells partially retain their activity) and insulin resistance (i.e. insulin resistance).

Another variant of diabetes, referred to as type 3 or secondary, is a relatively unknown disease. It is suspected that it is caused by other comorbidities, mainly related to metabolic and endocrine disorders or progressive neoplastic disease.

Gestational diabetes appears in he althy women and is specific to the period of pregnancy. Most likely, this variant is related to the hormonal changes that take place in the changing female organism. However, monitoring glucose levels at this particular time is essential as persistently high levels of glucose can adversely affect the development and he alth of the fetus.

Classic Diabetes Symptoms

The main - and the most reliable - symptom of all these types of diabetes is, above all, hyperglycemia - that is, excessively high levels of glucose present in the blood. It is detected during basic laboratory diagnostics. The norm of fasting blood sugar in adults is between 80-140 mg / dl, while in children the optimal value should be between 70-100 mg / dl. It is also assumed that after eating a meal, the sugar level should not exceed 180 mg / dl.

Persistent hyperglycaemia is usually accompanied by some of the symptoms characteristic of diabetes:

  • increased, unnatural thirst
  • increased appetite
  • frequent urination (polyuria)
  • acetone-smelling breath (related to the presence of ketone bodies)

The severity of this type of symptoms, however, depends on the individual characteristics of a given organism. Sometimes, especially with chronic disease, unusual symptoms may also appear, which may also indicate the development of diabetes.

Unusual symptoms of diabetes

Fungal infections

Unfortunately, constantly elevated blood glucose levels or its fluctuations increase the likelihood of fungal infections. Diabetes, as a systemic disease, significantly affects the weakening of the immune system, which is less effective in protecting the body against harmful microorganisms.

A particularly sensitive area of ​​the body of diabetics are the feet, where they can be affected by diseasecirculatory disorders or damage to peripheral nerves (so-called neuropathies) may occur.

Everyone's feet are daily exposed to the risk of many abrasions and microdamages, but in the case of uncontrolled diabetes, each such injury should be given special attention. One of the complications of diabetes may be the so-called diabetic foot syndrome - manifested as difficult to heal ulcers and degeneration of deep tissues in the patient's feet.

Mycosis of the feet, as one of the symptoms of unrecognized diabetes, may at first appear as a slight itching or irritation of the skin of the feet. Over time, however, the complaints include:

  • cracking of the skin between the fingers,
  • long-lasting redness,
  • thickening, wrinkling or excessive brittleness of toenails,
  • change the color of the nail plate to yellow-gray.

A special type of mycosis is candidiasis (otherwise known as thrush), most often caused by the species Candida albicans. The infections he causes most often concern such areas of the body as:

  • oral cavity,
  • throat,
  • birth roads,
  • stomach and intestines.

Especially women suffering from recurrent, persistent vaginal yeast infections should have their blood sugar checked during diagnostic tests. This could be one of the less common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes!

Skin problems

One of the less specific symptoms that may indicate a metabolic disease, such as diabetes, is the disturbing appearance and behavior of our skin. In order to function properly, the outer layers of the epidermis require a proper level of blood supply through the capillaries located in its deeper layers.

Hyperglycemia over time leads to damage and degeneration of the walls of blood vessels - the so-called diabetic angiopathy. Poorly nourished keratinocytes (i.e. epithelial cells) will not be able to divide and regenerate properly, which can cause unexpected changes in pigmentation. One of the little-known symptoms of diabetes mellitus may be brown, thick patches on the skin, most often in the neck and armpits (called dark keratosis).

In older men, an unusual symptom associated with diabetic complications is dark circles on the tibia, which also goes hand in hand with hair loss.

Other symptoms that may be indirectly related to each type of diabetes are also:

  • red erythema on the forehead and cheeks (with accompanying dilated capillaries or "spider veins"),
  • chronic dryness and peeling of the epidermis,
  • excessiveitching,
  • hard-to-heal acne lesions,
  • secretion of small amounts of sweat,
  • problems with healing cuts and burns.

Vision problems

Diabetes has a negative effect on blood vessels not only in the skin, but in all organs of our body. The membrane extremely sensitive to fluctuations in blood pressure and pathologies of small vessels is the retina located at the back of the eye, which processes visual stimuli.

In young people, any visual acuity disorders that appear should be immediately controlled by an ophthalmologist, because (in combination with blood tests) they can be the basis for the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Fortunately, the introduced treatment aimed at normalizing the sugar level, to a large extent, it is able to inhibit and even undo the changes that have occurred.

In the elderly, untreated diabetes may manifest as:

  • increasing myopia,
  • visual acuity disorders,
  • glaucoma or cataracts.

During a fundus examination performed in an ophthalmologist's office, changes related to too high blood sugar levels will also appear as:

  • minor bleeding,
  • micro aneurysms,
  • dilatation of capillaries.

Depending on the severity of the lesions, your doctor may determine the presence of diabetic retinopathy. This type of diabetes complication is very serious and requires immediate treatment. Otherwise, it may cause permanent eye damage.

Fatigue and mood swings

Chronic fluctuations in blood glucose, if left untreated, put a heavy burden on the body. In diabetics, most often after a meal (when the glucose level is at its maximum), excessive sleepiness and apathy are quite common. This symptom can occur in both types of diabetes (first and second).

The inability to effectively use the "fuel" in the form of glucose and insufficient nutrition of brain tissues can also cause psychological symptoms, for example:

  • irritation,
  • unjustified nervousness,
  • aggression,
  • anxiety or depression,
  • chronic fatigue.

If these symptoms last longer than a few weeks and cannot be justified by stressful life events - it is worth doing basic blood diagnostic tests - including blood glucose level, first.


Regularly recurring headaches usually signal that something is wrong in our body. Most often they are ascribed to themmalnutrition or high levels of stress. It turns out, however, that fluctuations in blood glucose levels can also be a less obvious cause of headaches or dizziness.

This can happen when your glucose levels regularly exceed the post-meal glucose limit of about 180 mg / dL (hyperglycaemia) or when it falls below 70 mg / dL (hypoglycaemia). Additionally, high glucose levels induce frequent urination of the patient, which may gradually dehydrate the body.

Lack of enough water in the tissues not only translates into an increasing feeling of thirst, dry mouth or dry skin, but also into persistent headaches.

How to protect yourself against diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, related to autoimmune cell damage, has a genetic background and unfortunately cannot be prevented.

However, the most common variant of the disease, type 2 diabetes, affecting the elderly, is now called a civilization disease, associated mainly with a changing lifestyle. A persistent positive energy balance, a processed diet and reduced physical activity are the direct "perpetrators" of obesity, which affects an increasing percentage of the population, both in Poland and around the world.

Scientific research indicates that excess body weight is the greatest risk factor for the development of non-insulin-dependent diabetes. As many as 90% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or severely obese. Unfortunately, a certain "curse" of metabolic diseases, including diabetes, is their strong impact on the entire body, which results in a number of he alth complications.

Patients who try to get out of the "vicious circle" and lose weight usually struggle with the problem of insulin resistance, which makes it difficult to regain a proper weight. So it is better not to neglect your he alth and physical condition for many years.

Of course, regular diagnostic periodic examinations are essential. It is also worth paying attention to less characteristic symptoms and subtle changes in the functioning of our body - they can be very helpful in the early diagnosis of dangerous diabetes.

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