Type 2 diabetes is a common condition where your body loses its ability to use up glucose in the blood, also known as blood sugar. There are a number of symptoms that can accompany type 2 diabetes — and many of them start to show up early.
The most common early signs of type 2 diabetes are frequent urination, extreme thirst, and persistent hunger. But there are other symptoms that may alert you to this disease. A diagnosis can feel life-changing, but types 2 diabetes is very manageable if caught early.
Read on to learn about other symptoms that may be a sign of type 2 diabetes, and how to start treatment as early as possible.
Also known as polyuria, frequent and/or excessive urination is a sign that your blood sugar levels are high enough to “spill” into your urine.
When your kidneys can’t keep up with the amount of glucose, they allow some of it to go into your urine. This makes you have to urinate often, including during the night.
Extreme thirst is another common early symptom of diabetes. It’s tied to high blood sugar levels, and is exacerbated by frequent urination. Often, drinking won’t satisfy the thirst.
Intense hunger, or polyphagia, is also an early warning sign of diabetes.
Your body uses the glucose in your blood to feed your cells. When this system is broken, your cells can’t absorb the glucose. As a result, your body is constantly looking for more fuel, causing persistent hunger.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you might experience tingling or numbness in your hands, fingers, feet, and toes. This is a sign of nerve damage, or diabetic neuropathy.
This condition typically develops slowly. You’re likely to experience this after years of living with diabetes, but it can be a first sign for some.
There are several reasons wounds will heal more slowly if you have diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels narrow your blood vessels, slowing blood circulation and restricting needed nutrients and oxygen from getting to wounds.
Prolonged, high blood sugar levels also damage your immune system, so your body has a harder time fighting infection.
Blurred vision usually occurs early in unmanaged diabetes. It can be a result of suddenly high blood sugar levels, which affect the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, causing fluid to seep into the lens of the eye. The blurriness will usually resolve. Still, see an eye doctor right away.
With prolonged high blood sugar levels, you become at risk for more serious conditions that can lead to blindness, such as diabetic retinopathy.
Dark, velvety discoloration in the folds of your skin is called acanthosis nigricans. This is another early warning sign of type 2 diabetes. It’s most common in the armpits, neck, and groin regions. The skin in the affected area also becomes thickened.
This is caused by an excess of insulin in the blood. This is common in people with type 2 diabetes because insulin resistance is the main precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Anybody can get a bacterial, fungal, or yeast infection, but people with type 2 diabetes tend to get them more often.
When your blood sugar is too high for your kidneys to filter it well, sugar ends up in the urine. This can cause urinary tract infections, as well as yeast infections. Gum and skin infections are also common.
Bacterial infections. You can often treat these at home by yourself, but you may need an antibiotic prescribed by a doctor. Common bacterial infections in people with diabetes include:
- styes (in or near the eyelids)
- boils on the surface of the skin, or carbuncles deeper down
- infections of the hair follicles, called folliculitis
- infections around the nails
Fungal infections. People with diabetes most often get the fungal infection caused by Candida albicans. This is a yeast-like fungus that causes itchy red rashes surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections are most found in warm, moist folds of skin, such as:
- under the breasts
- around the groin
- in the vagina
- around the nails
- between fingers and toes
Itchy skin is often caused by diabetes, and it’s sometimes one of the first symptoms. It can be caused by a variety of conditions related to diabetes, including:
- yeast or fungal infection
- dry skin
- poor circulation, often in the lower legs
Dry mouth is one of the most common mouth symptoms of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD).
Doctors don’t know exactly why dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs with diabetes. They believe it’s related to high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, which is related to diabetes.
Some symptoms of dry mouth include:
- mouth is continually dry
- trouble chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- dry, cracked lips
- sores or infections in the mouth
- rough, dry tongue
Extreme fatigue is one of the hallmark symptoms of diabetes. It’s sometimes called diabetes fatigue syndrome.
The most common explanation is that diabetes-related fatigue is caused by fluctuating blood glucose levels that don’t supply enough glucose for the body to use for energy. Researchers also acknowledge the difficulty of studying the connection between diabetes and fatigue.
Many co-occurring conditions can cause fatigue, as well as lifestyle factors including:
If you’re losing weight without trying to, this can be a diabetes warning sign. It can also be a sign of other conditions, so be sure to check with your doctor and get tested.
If you do have type 2 diabetes, there’s so much extra glucose circulating in your body that it goes into your urine. This may cause you to lose weight, even while you’re eating more and more to satisfy your hunger.
Irritability or mood changes can be a sign of type 2 diabetes. There are many other medical conditions that can cause shifts in mood. So don’t assume you have diabetes if you’re suddenly feeling a little cranky.
Mood changes that are associated with type 2 diabetes usually appear with other signs of diabetes, not on their own. A growing amount of
Blood sugar highs and lows are closely related to mental health symptoms such as:
People almost always develop prediabetes before type 2 diabetes. Your blood sugar levels at the prediabetes level are high, but not yet high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. With prediabetes, you might experience some diabetes symptoms, or you might not.
If you know or believe that you’re living with prediabetes, here are the blood levels that the three main types of diabetes tests will show:
If you think you may be experiencing any of these early signs of type 2 diabetes, it’s best to talk with your doctor right away.
The test for diabetes is often a simple blood test, and you’ll know the results fairly quickly. It’s possible that you may not actually be living with diabetes — many of the early symptoms of diabetes mimic those of other conditions.
Diabetes is a manageable condition, especially when found early. Early diagnosis and swift treatment can significantly reduce the risk of later complications.
Lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise can go a long way in managing diabetes. You may not need medication, but if you do, it’s best to start it early.