A blurry image of trees.
Some people with diabetes may experience blurry vision due to optic nerve damage.

Unusual Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes affects millions of Americans, but many do not realize they have the condition until complications arise. This is because the early symptoms are not always easy to recognize. There are also unusual diabetes symptoms people may not recognize.

In healthy individuals, the pancreas produces insulin in response to consuming food. It allows cells to take up glucose (sugar) from the food and convert it into energy. However, people with diabetes do not produce enough insulin, or their cells cannot use it effectively. This causes their blood sugar levels to become too high, leading to various complications.

There are two primary types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system becomes overactive and attacks the pancreas, damaging the insulin-producing cells. Therefore, people with type 1 diabetes need to use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.

People with type 2 diabetes can produce insulin, but their cells may not respond to its effects. This is known as insulin resistance. In its early stages, it may be possible to control type 2 diabetes by eating the right foods and exercising regularly. However, as the disease progresses, the pancreas produces less and less insulin and, eventually, medication or insulin injections may be required.

Some women can also develop diabetes during pregnancy, a condition known as gestational diabetes. In this article, we are going to look at some of the most unusual diabetes symptoms.

12 Unusual Diabetes Symptoms

1. Skin Changes

One of the more unusual early signs of diabetes is acanthosis nigricans (AN). It causes dark, thick and velvety patches to appear on the skin, especially around the nape of the neck. AN can also affect the skin creases, such as the armpits and groin.

AN occurs as a result of insulin resistance. When cells cannot utilize insulin effectively, it builds up in the blood stream and causes skin cells to reproduce more rapidly than normal.

AN can also affect people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a gynecological condition associated with insulin resistance.

2. Frequent Infections

High blood glucose levels can affect white blood cells, a key component of the immune system. Therefore, people with diabetes may be more prone to infections, including urinary tract infections and skin infections, such as boils.

Yeast infections are also common in people with diabetes, as glucose acts as fuel for the yeast, allowing it to thrive.

3. Mood Changes

Rapid fluctuations in blood sugar can cause symptoms, such as mood swings and irritability. These issues could be an early sign of diabetes, especially if they occur in association with hunger.

4. Dizziness

People with diabetes may feel light-headed or dizzy as a result of high or low blood sugar. It can also be the result of dehydration, which occurs due to excessive urination.

5. Vision Changes

High blood sugar can affect the fluid balance of the eyes, leading to swelling, blurred vision, or difficulty focusing.

More advanced diabetes can also damage the retina, the structure that converts light into nerve signals. Over time, this can lead to blindness, so any eyesight changes should be investigated as early as possible.

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6. Strange Sensations

Too much glucose in the blood can also damage nerves and blood vessels throughout the body. This could lead to strange sensations, such as pins and needles, numbness, or unexplained pain. These symptoms usually start in the feet and work their way upward.

7. Foot Problems

Loss of feeling in the feet could mean that people with diabetes do not realize when they sustain minor injuries. Unfortunately, diabetes can also lead to slow wound healing, so infections or ulcers can easily occur.

It is a good idea for people to check their feet regularly, whether they have been diagnosed with diabetes or not. Any unexplained damage could be a sign that something is wrong.

8. Itching

Itching can occur in diabetes as a result of damage to the nerves that supply the skin. It could also be caused by dry skin due to blood vessel damage or dehydration.

9. Sexual Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is common among men with diabetes. It is the result of high blood sugar damaging the nerves and blood vessels that supply the penis.

Women with diabetes may also experience sexual dysfunction, including reduced libido and lubrication.

10. Fruity Breath

When the body uses fat instead of glucose to generate energy, it produces chemicals called ketones. They can give the breath an unusual aroma that can be described as fruity or acetone-like.

Fruity breath can indicate a serious complication called diabetic ketoacidosis. It is a medical emergency, and anyone with this symptom should seek treatment immediately.

11. Dental Problems

High blood sugar levels can interfere with saliva flow, leading to a dry mouth. This has a knock-on effect on dental health, causing bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay.

12. Nausea and Vomiting

If the nerves that supply the stomach become damaged, food may not be able to pass into the intestines easily. This causes it to sit in the stomach too long, leading to nausea and, occasionally, vomiting.

How to Treat Unusual Diabetes Symptoms

Most of the unusual diabetes symptoms listed above can be treated simply by getting one’s blood sugar under control. This can be done through diet, medication, or insulin injections.

Anyone affected by any of these issues should consult their physician to get a diagnosis and discuss the most appropriate treatment for them.