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Problems that people with diabetes shouldn’t ignore

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

People with diabetes learn to manage their condition with a healthy diet, regular exercise and medication. Success is measured by how well they can control their blood sugar.

However, many factors can affect blood sugar besides diet and activity. Illness, stress, social drinking and women’s menstrual cycles can all influence blood sugar levels and upset your normal routine.

If you have diabetes, you may know these factors and make adjustments accordingly. However, some symptoms are always reasons to seek medical advice, whether it’s a call to your GP or make a trip to accident and emergency.

Here are the diabetes symptoms you should never ignore.

Frequent urination, extreme thirst or hunger, or blurry vision

These are three common warning signs of uncontrolled blood sugar.

With any of these symptoms, you should test your blood sugar and seek medical advice. Depending on how high your blood sugar is, medication may fix the problem or you may have to seek medical care to replace fluids and electrolytes and to get blood sugar back under control.

If left unchecked, high blood sugar can lead to serious, life-threatening conditions. Type 1 diabetes patients can develop diabetic ketoacidosis, which happens when the body starts breaking down fats instead of sugars and a dangerous build-up of ketones (by-products of fat metabolism) occurs.

In type 2 diabetes, hyperosmolar coma can occur, which leads to dehydration and altered consciousness and which could be fatal if untreated.

Acting drunk

Strange behaviour can also indicate low blood sugar. This can happen when a person’s medication works too well and overshoots the target.

Drinking some juice or eating a snack usually is enough to raise sugar levels and normalise behaviour. Often, however, the person is not in the state of mind to recognise that something is wrong. If no one else is around to prompt you, your blood sugar may sink low enough to cause you to lose consciousness.

Most of the time, patients will recover on their own, but if they are taking certain medications, emergency medical treatment may be required.

Infections, swollen or bloody gums, foot sores

A medical check is recommended for a cut that’s infected, swollen or bloody gums, or a wound that won’t heal. Watch out for a sore on the foot, which may be the first sign of a foot ulcer.

All diabetes patients should get regular foot examinations by their GP, nurse, podiatrist or chiropodist. They should also check their own feet daily, even if sores are not present. Remember to bathe your feet daily in warm (but not hot) water, following up with a moisturiser to prevent dry skin, which may crack and lead to infection.

Fungal infections occur more frequently in people with diabetes.

A red, itchy rash, especially in moist areas such as skin folds, can signal a fungal infection.

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