Experts say undiagnosed type 1 or type 2 diabetes can cause serious health problems.
Right now, you or one of your close friends or family members could have diabetes and simply not know it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that more than 30 million Americans now have diabetes, and more than 7 million of them haven’t received a proper diagnosis.
And undiagnosed diabetes will catch up with you eventually.
The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the more likely you’ll be able to prevent the complications that can develop as a result of prolonged high blood sugar levels.
While the CDC report doesn’t differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the majority of those undiagnosed cases likely fall in the type 2 category for two reasons.
The first is that 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases are type 2, according the CDC report.
The second is that type 1 diabetes is the autoimmune form of the condition that develops rapidly over the course of a few weeks, not years. The signs and symptoms come on quickly.
Ignoring those symptoms for months or even a few weeks can result in coma or even death.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can evolve gradually over the course of several years, which means they’re easy to overlook.
“Even physicians developing diabetes sometimes don’t recognize the symptoms,” explained Gretchen Becker, author of “The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes.”
Before her own diagnosis more than 20 years ago, Becker says she easily dismissed the warning signs, too.
“I thought I was peeing all the time because I drank so much coffee,” she told Healthline. “And I thought I was so thirsty because I was peeing so much.”
Here are the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes as reported by the American Diabetes Association.
A person with undiagnosed diabetes would generally display several of these symptoms at the same time.
However, if you’re concerned, ask your doctor to test your blood sugar, HbA1c, and your urine for ketones.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can exhibit these symptoms:
- severe thirst
- frequent urination
- severe fatigue
- increased appetite
- blurry vision
- yeast infections
Sour or foul-smelling breath and rapid weight loss are common with type 1 diabetes.
Other symptoms common with diabetes are:
- slow-healing cuts, bruises, or blisters
- tingling in hands, legs, or toes
- noticeably sleepy after meals
The signs of diabetes can easily be mistaken for a lingering flu — especially in children with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes — so it’s crucial to ask your doctor to test your (or your child’s) blood sugar and urine if you notice any combination of the symptoms above.
For those with potentially undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, getting tested is easy.
If your ethnicity is Alaskan, Native American, African-American, or Hispanic, you have a significantly greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC report.
Additionally, men make up slightly more than half of the diabetes population.
In addition, more than half of those newly diagnosed are between the ages of 45 and 64, but you can develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes at nearly any age.
While type 1 was once thought of as developing in childhood and type 2 was once thought of as developing in older age, both types of the disease can develop in people of all ages.
The location of the largest populations of type 2 diabetes cases is also clear.
The Southern U.S. region of Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, and Georgia as well as Puerto Rico lead the list.
“Diabetes is not a death sentence,” said Becker. “Well-controlled diabetes often means you’re healthier than the average American because you eat less sweet junk and more real food.”
She cautions, though, that uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes is a guarantee for serious health problems.
You can only ignore type 2 diabetes for so long before the damage of elevated blood glucose levels to your body starts to add up.
“The diagnosis is a big shock, and it takes getting used to,” Becker said. “When I was diagnosed, my blood pressure went up just because of the emotional stress I was experiencing about it.”
Her best advice for embracing your diagnosis and moving forward?
Find others, either in person or online, who have been there, too, and who are living full lives with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.