November is Diabetes Awareness Month. As part of a campaign to drive Diabetes awareness, the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) warns that not everyone with diabetes displays the obvious symptoms, and that people should also look out for other unusual signs that may signify high blood sugar levels:
Skin patches – Dark, velvety patches in the folds of the skin, usually on the back of the neck, elbows, or knuckles, are often an early warning sign of high blood sugar levels. This is caused by high insulin levels which promote the growth of skin cells and melanin, a pigment in these cells, which makes the patches dark.
Improved vision – Blurry vision is a diabetes symptom. But, in fact, any vision changes, whether for better or worse, can also be a symptom. The reason for this is that diabetes causes fluid levels in the body to shift around, including inside your eyes, which can lead to changes in eyesight.
Itchiness – Diabetes impairs blood circulation and causes nerve damage, which can lead to dry skin and itchiness.
Hearing loss – The ICPA advises that one study by the National Institute of Health suggested that hearing loss could be an early warning sign of diabetes, and the researchers believe that diabetes damages the blood vessels and nerves of the inner ear, leading to sub-par hearing.
Snoring -“Statistics have shown that about half of type-2 diabetics snore. The connection isn’t completely understood, but it seems that people who snore tend to release stress hormones during sleep, which can raise blood sugar levels,” says Jackie Maimin, CEO of the ICPA.
Cuts and injuries heal more slowly – The immune system and the processes that help the body heal don’t work so well when your sugar levels are high
Your feet tingle – Elevated blood sugar levels can cause complications well before you realize you have diabetes. One of these is peripheral nerve damage, which can cause numbness or pins and needles in your feet
You are more prone to urinary tract and yeast infections – Higher levels of sugar in the urine and the vagina can become a breeding ground for the bacteria and yeast that cause these infections. Recurrent infections can be a sign of diabetes.
The number of people suffering from Diabetes is on the increase, and in light of this, the ICPA urges South Africans to get screened and tested for diabetes during Diabetes Awareness Month – independent community pharmacies are offering free diabetes risk screening in November.
Maimin explains that the ICPA has developed a diabetes risk assessment tool which predicts the chances of a person developing diabetes in the next few years, or of having it already.
This risk assessment features a series of targeted questions and data analyses that then indicates whether a person should go on for further testing and if they need counselling on lifestyle changes to avoid developing diabetes.