Early symptoms of diabetes include extreme thirst, a frequent need to pee, and unintentional weight loss. See a doctor for a diagnosis if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Diabetes is a serious, common medical condition. If you have diabetes, you need to manage and regularly monitor your glucose (blood sugar) levels to be sure that they’re within a target range.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune condition usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence.

Type 2 diabetes, which typically develops in adulthood, occurs when your body stops responding to insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, that helps your cells take in sugar from your blood.

The only way to know for sure that you have diabetes is to get tested. The most common tests are the A1C test and the plasma glucose test.

This article will take a closer look at the warning signs of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, testing options, and treatments.

Untreated diabetes tends to cause worsening symptoms over time as chronically high blood sugar levels cause more damage to your tissues and organs. You may not recognize these warning signs in the beginning if they’re mild.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes tend to come on more gradually than type 1 diabetes. In the early stages of diabetes, there may be no symptoms at all.

It’s important that you visit your doctor if you notice any potential warning signs of diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can severely damage the tissues and organs in your body.

Early warning signs

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have some symptoms that are the same and some that are different.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends seeing your doctor for blood sugar tests if you have any of the following general warning signs of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes symptoms can develop quickly, within a few weeks or months.

It’s generally diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can occur at any age. It’s most commonly diagnosed in children 4 to 6 and 10 to 14 years of age.

In addition to the symptoms outlined above, a child may experience additional symptoms, such as:

  • sudden, unintentional weight loss
  • wetting the bed after a history of being dry at night
  • a yeast infection in a prepubescent girl
  • breath that smells like fruit
  • flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, problems breathing, and loss of consciousness

Flu-like symptoms are caused when undiagnosed diabetes causes ketones to build up in the bloodstream. This condition is called diabetic ketoacidosis. This condition is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical treatment.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes tend to come on more gradually than type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can develop over the course of several years, and the warning signs may be subtle. It’s also possible to not have any obvious warning signs at all.

Instead, you may be diagnosed with diabetes after visiting your doctor for:

  • persistent infections or a slow-healing wound
  • numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
  • heart problems

People with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing certain health problems, which can also be symptoms of diabetes.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these issues in more detail.

Hunger, thirst, and fatigue

Many people with type 2 diabetes experience hunger and fatigue due to an inability to metabolize the glucose in their blood.

Your kidneys need to work harder to get rid of excess sugar in your blood, which can cause frequent urination and thirst.

Immunosuppression and infections

Chronically high levels of blood sugar can cause dysfunction of the immune system.

People with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing infectious diseases. Yeast infections are particularly common in people with diabetes.

A 2021 study found evidence that people with diabetes are at a higher risk of oral thrush infections.

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a potentially serious complication of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by chronically high blood sugar levels. Early symptoms include tingling, pain, or weakness in your hands and feet.

As it progresses, you might not be able to feel pain in your extremities, which puts you at an increased risk of developing conditions such as diabetic ulcers.

Blurry vision

Blurry vision can be one of the first symptoms of diabetes.

High levels of glucose in your eyes can cause the lens in your eyes to swell and distort your vision. Over time, elevated glucose levels can also damage your retina and the nerves that play a key role in your vision.

Sudden blurry vision can also be caused by a sudden drop in your blood sugar. Additionally, diabetes increases your risk of developing other eye conditions that can cause blurred vision such as glaucoma.

There are certain risk factors for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and even adults can develop type 1 diabetes, though it’s rare.

TypeWho is at risk
type 1children
young adults
those with an immediate relative with type 1 diabetes
type 2being over age 45
being overweight
having a sedentary lifestyle
being a smoker
having a family history of diabetes
having high blood pressure
having abnormal triglyceride or HDL cholesterol levels
having a history of insulin resistance
being of certain ethnic backgrounds, such as American Indian, Alaskan Native, Hispanic, or Black

Many people get tested for diabetes because they develop symptoms that are potential early warning signs.

For example, people with type 1 diabetes may experience unintentional weight loss or develop flu-like symptoms. People with type 2 diabetes may experience extreme thirst or frequent urination.

You may experience one or more of the warning signs associated with diabetes. If you do, it’s important to contact your doctor for an appointment.

You may also discover a diabetes diagnosis after visiting your doctor for another condition or for routine blood work.

If you make an appointment with your doctor due to diabetes warning signs, they will want to know:

  • your symptoms
  • family history
  • medications you’re taking
  • any allergies you have

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and will likely run some blood tests.

There are several tests that can diagnose diabetes. These include:

  • A1C: This test shows what your blood glucose level has averaged for the last 2 or 3 months. This does not require you to fast or drink anything.
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG): You will need to fast for at least 8 hours before this test is done.
  • Oral glucose tolerance (OGTT): This test takes 2 to 3 hours. Your blood glucose levels are tested initially and then repeated at intervals for 2 hours after you’ve consumed a specific sweet drink.
  • Random plasma glucose test: You can have this test done any time and do not need to be fasting.

It’s also helpful to have a list of questions to ask your doctor regarding your warning signs and any concerns you have about other conditions you have.

Diabetes can be treated in several ways. Diet, physical activity, and careful monitoring are important if you have diabetes, no matter which type of diabetes you have.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to take insulin for the rest of your life. That’s because your pancreas doesn’t produce the insulin your body needs.

If you have type 2 diabetes, it may be possible to control your diabetes with lifestyle changes, such as diet, weight loss, and exercise. You may also need to take oral or injectable medications, including insulin or metformin, to manage your blood sugar levels.

If you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you’ll need to carefully track your diet to prevent your blood sugar levels from getting too high. This generally means watching your carbohydrate intake as well as limiting over-processed, low fiber foods, such as:

  • sugary sodas
  • sweetened breakfast cereals
  • white bread
  • white pasta
  • white rice
  • fruit juices
  • processed packaged snacks
  • fruit-flavored yogurt
  • flavored coffee drinks

Your doctor will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan to help you control your blood sugar levels.

If you have type 1 diabetes you’ll need to manage your glucose levels by matching your insulin to your diet and activity.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may be able to manage your blood sugar levels with diet and activity alone. If lifestyle changes don’t help to bring your blood sugar levels down to a healthy range, your doctor will work with you to add medications as needed.

Diabetes is a progressive disease that may require re-evaluation and changes to your treatment plan over time.

You can live a full and active life with diabetes. Although diabetes requires careful planning and management, it shouldn’t prevent you from engaging in and enjoying everyday activities.

Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented.

You may be able to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by managing your weight, staying active, and following a healthy diet. However, genetics and other risk factors may increase your risk despite your best efforts.

If you have any risk factors for diabetes, it’s important to get regular checkups with your doctor or healthcare professional. This will help prevent diabetes from progressing and causing other serious health complications.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood. Early symptoms often include unintentional weight loss, bedwetting, and flu-like symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to be diagnosed in adulthood. Early symptoms can include extreme thirst, frequent urination, and slow wound healing.

Often, symptoms of untreated diabetes get worse and are either mild or unnoticeable in the early stages. A diabetes diagnosis can be confirmed with one or more blood tests.

Talk with your doctor if you believe you have diabetes. Getting on top of your condition and managing it effectively is key to controlling your symptoms and preventing more serious health problems.

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