Being diagnosed with diabetes means you need to take extra care of your health. It is very important to keep your blood sugar levels under control to reduce the risk of diabetes-related health complications.
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a number of short- and long-term complications, including hypoglycemia, heart disease, nerve damage, amputation, and vision problems.
It is common to feel overwhelmed, sad or angry when suffering from diabetes, as you need to check your blood sugar all the time and take pills or stick yourself with needles to supply your body with insulin.
This is why most people have trouble sticking to a diabetes management plan over time. Even more frustrating, some people may have high blood sugar even after taking their medicines and insulin on time.
According to the World Health Organization, high blood glucose was the cause of 2.2 million deaths in 2012 (1).
High blood sugar can cause several changes in the body. So, you need to be aware of the signs that indicate that your blood sugar levels are not under control. Keeping an eye out for the signs will help you take necessary steps and prevent complications.
Bear in mind that with good diabetes control and living a healthy, active lifestyle, you can live years without suffering from diabetes complications.
Here are some signs that you are not managing your diabetes properly.
1. Constantly Thirsty
No matter what, one common sign of high blood sugar is increased thirst. This means you will suddenly start drinking more water than usual.
The main reason why high blood sugar makes you thirsty is polyuria. When your blood sugar level is high, the kidneys cannot function properly and end up producing more urine to get rid of the excess glucose they cannot absorb. This causes you to become dehydrated, and to combat that, you start drinking more water.
The American Diabetes Association provides a list of seven symptoms of diabetes and excessive thirst tops the list (2).
So, if you are feeling abnormally thirsty and drinking water doesn’t satisfy your thirst, test your blood sugar level. If it’s high even though you’re taking your prescribed insulin, consult your doctor.
2. Frequent Urination
Despite taking medicines or insulin, if you need to use the bathroom more frequently, it is a clear sign that your blood sugar is out of control.
According to Diabetes Self Management, excess urination or polyuria in diabetes occurs when you have excess levels of sugar in the blood. In fact, it is a classic symptom of high blood sugar levels (3).
Constantly needing to urinate is directly linked to constant thirst. As the kidneys are not able to keep up with the excess sugar, they try to get rid of it through urination. So, you end up making more visits to the bathroom, especially during the night.
Hence, it is very important to keep track of your trips to the bathroom. If you notice you are going every hour, check your blood sugar level immediately.
3. More Tiredness
Following the same routine, but still getting fatigued and tired more easily is a clear indication that your blood sugar levels are not under control.
Fatigue and extreme tiredness are linked to uncontrolled blood sugar. When your body is not processing insulin properly, the sugar remains in your blood rather than getting into your cells to be used for energy. Moreover, the kidneys are not able to absorb the glucose and create energy, ultimately leading to weakness and tiredness.
A study published in Diabetes Care in 2014 found a strong relationship between hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and chronic fatigue in people with type 1 diabetes (4).
If you are experiencing fatigue and weakness despite eating properly and enjoying adequate sleep, see your doctor and get your blood sugar level checked.
4. Slow-Healing Wounds
Cuts, scrapes, bruises, and other wounds are common, and they often heal quickly. But cuts and scrapes heal more slowly in diabetics as compared to people who do not have this condition.
However, if you are diabetic and your wounds take more time to heal than usual, it can be due to uncontrolled blood sugar.
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage and affect blood circulation, especially in the lower legs and feet. Slow healing can cause even minor wounds to be more prone to infections, which can become very serious.
A 1990 study published in the Nursing Clinics of North America reports that slow wound healing in diabetic people can be due to both an inherent (genetic) defect as well as decreased insulin availability and increased blood glucose concentration (5).
Make sure to consult your doctor soon if a wound is taking a long time to heal and there are signs of infection.
5. Tingling and Numbness
Uncontrolled blood glucose can cause nerve damage called neuropathy. This happens as high blood glucose levels restrict proper blood flow to the extremities, which causes damage to the nerve fibers.
Neuropathy can cause symptoms like a tingling sensation or even numbness in your hands and feet. In some cases, the muscles in the legs and feet may weaken, making you unsteady.
So, if you begin experiencing tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, consult your doctor about your blood sugar levels before it starts interfering with your daily routine or your sleep.
6. Blurry Vision
If you suddenly notice that you are having vision problems, bear in mind that it can be due to poor diabetes management.
High blood sugar can lead to some degree of retinopathy, or damage to the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This happens as high blood glucose levels can damage the eye’s delicate blood vessels, which in turn makes it unable to properly focus, causing blurred vision.
Moreover, fluctuating blood sugar levels can make the lens of your eye shrink or swell, causing the vision to blur.
If you have sudden vision loss, see a specialist immediately.
7. Oral Problems
If your gums bleed despite maintaining good oral hygiene, it is time to get your blood sugar levels checked. High sugar levels can cause several oral problems and bleeding gums is just one of them.
High blood glucose helps bacteria grow, which in turn causes an infection. Then you can get red, sore and swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth.
Also, high blood sugar can weaken your mouth’s germ-fighting powers. Moreover, it can rob your mouth of moisture, which can result in pain, sores, infections, and cavities.
The American Diabetes Association provides detailed information regarding how blood sugar levels can affect oral health (6).
8. Extremely Dry Skin
If your skin is extremely dry, your blood sugar levels may have been high for quite some time. High blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage, which causes the skin to remain dry.
Also, high blood sugar causes the body to lose fluids rapidly, which means the skin is not able to retain moisture for a long time, leaving your skin dry and itchy. Along with dry skin, there may be dark skin patches in the folds of your skin around the armpits, neck and groin area.
If your skin feels dry and itchy despite following a good skin care routine, get your sugar levels checked.
Tips to Maintain a Stable Blood Sugar Level
- Stress can raise your blood sugar, so learn to lower your stress levels.
- When eating a meal, fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-fourth with a lean protein and one-fourth with a whole grain.
- Drink water instead of juice and regular sodas.
- Speak to a dietician to prepare a meal plan for you and do your best to stick to the plan.
- Try to remain active most days of the week and follow a good exercise routine.
- Take frequent walks. Start slowly by taking 10 minute walks, 3 times a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight by using your meal plan and moving more.
- Take your medicines and insulin on time, even when you feel good.
- Ask your doctor before taking any kind of medicine.
- Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling.
- Brush your teeth and floss every day to keep your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy.
- Stop smoking and drinking in excess.
- Always keep track of your blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
- Report any changes in your health to your doctor immediately.
- Diabetes. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Clark NG, Fox KM, Grandy S. Symptoms of Diabetes and Their Association With the Risk and Presence of Diabetes: Findings from the Study to Help Improve Early evaluation and management of risk factors Leading to Diabetes (SHIELD). Diabetes Care. 2007;30(11):2868-2873. doi:10.2337/dc07-0816.
- CPT WDBSAAS. High Blood Sugar Symptoms. Diabetes Self-Management. https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/blood-glucose-management/high-blood-glucose/. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Goedendorp MM, Tack CJ, Steggink E, Bloot L, Bazelmans E, Knoop H. Chronic Fatigue in Type 1 Diabetes: Highly Prevalent but Not Explained by Hyperglycemia or Glucose Variability. Diabetes Care. 2013;37(1):73-80. doi:10.2337/dc13-0515.
- Rosenberg CS. Wound healing in the patient with diabetes mellitus. The Nursing clinics of North America. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2179891. Published March 1990. Accessed February 14, 2018.
- Warning Signs. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/warning-signs.html. Accessed February 14, 2018.