What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The development of type 1 diabetes is usually sudden and dramatic, while the symptoms can often be mild or absent in people with type 2 diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes are usually diagnosed in the hospital while people with Type 2 often go undiagnosised until they experience complications or until a routine screening detects high blood sugar levels.

The common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination & excessive thirst

Your kidneys are trying to flush the excess glucose from your system, so you may urinate frequently, particularly in the middle of the night. Excessive thirst goes hand-in-hand with frequent urination,because your body needs to replenish lost fluids.

  • Excessive weight loss

Your body typically uses glucose for energy, but when insulin is not available to help the glucose get into the cells, where it can be used as energy, the body thinks it’s starving and starts breaking down protein from the muscles and fat as an alternate source of fuel. Ketones are a byproduct of fat breakdown which is why ketones are present in the blood and urine when your blood sugar rises too high. Your kidneys also work to eliminate the excess sugar, which leads to a loss of water, which increases weight loss.

  • Excessive hunger

Excessive hunger can be caused by sharp highs and lows in blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels plummet, your body thinks it hasn’t been fed and craves more glucose. Low blood sugar only occurs when anti-diabetic medication is being used, like insulin.

  • Blurry vision

High blood glucose changes the shape of your eye. Long periods of high glucose will cause permanent damage, possibly even blindness. Diabetes is a one of the leading causes of blindness in adults.

  • Skin problems and impair wound healing

Diabetes can cause infections, cuts, or bruises to heal slowly. Poorly controlled diabetes causes vascular damage. Blood vessels are damaged by excessive glucose traveling through the veins and arteries, which makes it hard for blood to reach different areas of the body to facilitate healing. Poor circulation leads to skin irritation, poor wound healing, ulcers, and in some cases amputation.

  • Tingling or numbness

Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet is a sign of nerve damage. Long periods of high glucose will cause permanent nerve damage.

  • Fatigue and irritability

Your body expends extra effort compensating for its glucose deficiency. You will also be tired if you are getting up frequently during the night to urinate, or are experiencing other difficulties sleeping as a result of diabetes.

  • Infection

Diabetes comes with an increased susceptibility to a variety of infections, the most common of which are yeast and other fungal infections. Fungi and bacteria thrive in sugar-rich environments. Women often experience frequent urinary tract infections when blood glucose is poorly controlled.

  • Other symptoms include:

    • Lack of interest and concentration
    • Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu)
    • Frozen shoulder (severe shoulder pain caused by high glucose levels)
    • Shallow breathing
    • Fruity smelling breath and urine
    • Gingivitis
  • Symptoms more common in Type 1:

    • Lethargy
    • Stupor
    • Weight loss
    • Smell of acetone (breath and urine)
    • Kussmaul breathing (hyperventilation) –occurs during ketoacidosis
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal pain

Testing for Diabetes

  • Random blood glucose testing can be done to screen for diabetes. If the glucose is above 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) it is likely that you have diabetes.
  • Urine glucose and ketone testing is also a screening method used to detect diabetes. If high levels of glucose or ketones are present in the urine, blood tests should be done to rule out diabetes.
  • A common test for type 2 diabetes is the fasting plasma glucose test, which checks your blood sugar after 8 hours of not eating. Blood glucose levels above 126  mg/dL on two occasions are  required for a diagnosis of diabetes.
  • Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, methods of testing for diabetes included tasting urine and seeing if ants were attracted to the urine of diabetics. Some people would also taste the urine to see if it was sweet.




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