The trouble with diabetes is that it doesn’t hurt. Because it is painless, most people who have diabetes think that they can ignore it. After all, anything that is serious would hurt a lot, right?
The pain comes later with the complications of diabetes that come in its wake, sometimes years later. Some of these complications hurt a whole lot. Think of the continuous pain of diabetic neuropathy, one of the most common complications of diabetes. Or think of the sharp pain when you get a heart attack.
Diabetes is the most insidious disease anyone can get. A dictionary definition of insidious is one that develops “so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent.”
When we first get diabetes, the symptoms don’t seem like much. “Often, people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at first,” according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “They may not have symptoms for many years.” That certainly rings a bell with me, because when a doctor told me in February 1994 that my A1C level was 14.4 and that I had diabetes, I had never had any symptoms of diabetes.
When people begin to realize that something is wrong, the typical symptoms of diabetes that they experience are excessive thirst and appetite, increased urination, unusual weight loss or gain, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, dry mouth, slow-healing sores or cuts, itching skin, and yeast infections. Women may also have frequent vaginal infections.
Did you notice what’s missing from that list of symptoms? Pain. Few people would even take even one aspirin tablet for any of these common symptoms.
September is National Pain Awareness Month, and those of us with diabetes — the most insidious and potentially painful disease we can get — have to be included. The National Pain Awareness Campaign is a cooperative effort between The National Pain Foundation and the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
Even though many of us aren’t hurting now, some of us or our family and friends are in great pain because of the complications of diabetes. Sometimes these people can reverse the complications and the pain that goes with them. But sadly, it is already too late for many people.
Right now, I am thinking of those of us who aren’t in pain, at least not yet. Normally, pain can serve as a wakeup call to action. But that doesn’t work with diabetes. The pain of disease, which can be a good time, comes too late for us.
Those of us who have diabetes have to be smart enough to manage their diabetes before it hurts. Managing diabetes means that we have to constantly avoid high blood sugar. It’s that simple.
Yet the ways that we can carry out that simple mandate are awfully complex. That’s why I have written thousands of articles about diabetes with many more to come. Stay low!
HealthCentral published an earlier version of this article.