Diabetes Symptoms

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 6, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on October 6, 2014

Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes symptoms occur when blood sugar (glucose) levels in the body become abnormally elevated. The most common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • thirst
  • fatigue
  • frequent
  • increased urination
  • blurry vision

However, symptoms do vary from one person to the next, and depend on which type of diabetes you have. 

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes tend to begin abruptly and dramatically. Type 1 is most often seen in children, adolescents, and young adults. Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common type, occurs most commonly in adults. The symptoms are similar to type 1 diabetes, they develop slowly, or there may be no symptoms at all. Type 2 is often caused by obesity.

In some cases your symptoms may seem vague or harmless. However, you should be alert to the following symptoms. If you experience them, see your doctor immediately for a diabetes screening and blood tests.

Common Diabetes Symptoms

Thirst/Dehydration

Diabetes causes your blood glucose levels to rise. Increased glucose levels cause your body to pull fluid from your cells into the bloodstream and deliver the increased load to your kidneys. This can overwork your kidneys and cause them to produce more urine than normal. Frequent urination, another common symptom, will bring on thirst. This leads to drinking more fluids, which compounds the problem.

Weight Loss

With diabetes, your body has trouble processing the glucose from the foods you eat. This will cause your body to break down other energy sources available like fat. This will lead to weight loss. You may eat normally and constantly feel hungry, yet continue to lose weight. This symptom is most common in people with type 1 diabetes.

Fatigue

Glucose is a primary source of body fuel. If you have diabetes, your body’s inability to convert glucose into energy will lead to fatigue. This can range from a general worn-down feeling to exhaustion.  

Blurred Vision

Abnormally high glucose levels in the blood can also lead to eye problems. Controlling your blood sugar levels can help correct this symptom over time. However, if left undetected, diabetes can lead to more serious eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy. According to the National Eye Institute, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults.

Recurring Infections

High glucose levels in your body’s tissues may hinder your ability to heal from cuts and scrapes. You will also be more susceptible to various bacteria and infections. Especially vulnerable are the skin, kidneys, bladder, and feet.

Advanced Diabetes Symptoms

Although some people with diabetes have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that seem relatively harmless, untreated diabetes can be very dangerous. There is a danger of critically high blood sugar levels, a condition called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is less common in type 2 diabetes because insulin is still being produced. This condition can cause:

  • deep, rapid breathing
  • nausea or vomiting 
  • stomach pain
  • flushed complexion
  • confusion
  • bad breath
  • coma

Dangerously low levels of blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are sometimes associated with diabetes treatments. Hypoglycemia can cause:

  • fainting
  • rapid heartbeat
  • sweating
  • dizziness and trembling
  • confusion
  • anxiety
  • drowsiness
  • cramps
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