What are the symptoms of diabetes? | A Friendly Guide

Uncover the common signs of diabetes with our friendly guide. "What are the symptoms of diabetes?" covers frequent urination, increased thirst, fatigue, and more.

Diabetes often shows early symptoms from too much sugar in your blood.1 These signs can be so slight that you might not notice them, especially with type 2 diabetes. Some people only discover they have it after facing damage from the disease over time. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, brings severe symptoms rather quickly, in days to a few weeks.2 Common warning signs include feeling more hungry, tired, and thirsty than usual. You might also notice a dry mouth, itchy skin, and find it hard to see clearly.

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes symptoms can be subtle and easy to miss, especially with type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes symptoms appear rapidly, while type 2 develops more gradually.
  • Common warning signs are feeling more thirsty or needing to pee a lot, tiredness, blurry eyesight, and slow healing wounds.
  • Not treating diabetes can lead to nerve damage and loss of vision.
  • It’s important to know the early signs to receive medical help and handle the condition well.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases affecting blood sugar use. Glucose is vital for cell energy and the brain’s main fuel.2 No matter the type, it leads to too much sugar in the blood.

What is Diabetes?

There are two chronic conditions, type 1 and type 2 diabetes.3 There are also reversible conditions like pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes. Diabetes insipidus, not related to mellitus, involves the kidneys removing too much fluid.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes often starts in childhood.2 Type 2, more prevalent, can develop at any age, usually after 40.2 It’s becoming more common in children, especially in certain ethnic groups.2 Prediabetes, type 2, and gestational diabetes are linked to being overweight.2

Type of DiabetesPrevalenceRisk Factors
Type 1 DiabetesCan occur at any age, often in childhood/teensFamily history, autoimmune factors
Type 2 DiabetesMore common, higher prevalence in those over 40Obesity, inactivity, certain races/ethnicities
Gestational DiabetesDevelops during pregnancyOverweight/obesity, family history
PrediabetesPrecursor to type 2 diabetesOverweight/obesity, sedentary lifestyle

Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

Feeling thirsty more often and needing to pee a lot are early signs of diabetes. If your blood sugar is high, your kidneys aren’t able to keep all the sugar. So, your body gets rid of the extra sugar through urine, making you lose more water. This can lead to dehydration.1

Increased Thirst and Frequent Urination

Normally, people pee about four to seven times a day. But with diabetes, you might go even more.1 If your blood sugar is over 180 mg/dl, it means your blood sugar is too high.1

Fatigue and Unexplained Weight Loss

Feeling tired all the time and losing weight without trying are also signs. This happens because your body can’t use glucose properly. So, it starts to burn fat and muscle for energy instead.

Blurred Vision

Your eyesight might also get blurry. This is because your eye lenses are affected by changes in body fluid levels.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

With type 1 diabetes, symptoms show up quickly, often in just a few days or weeks. They’re more severe than those of type 2 diabetes.4 This fast start happens because the body attacks and destroys the cells that make insulin.4

Rapid Onset of Symptoms

People usually find out they have type 1 diabetes when they’re young.5 But, it can also show up in adults.5 Signs include being really thirsty, needing to pee more than usual, feeling tired, and losing weight without trying. This quick start is different from how type 2 diabetes slowly affects the body.


If left unchecked, type 1 diabetes can lead to a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).5 DKA happens when the body builds up too many harmful acids, which is sometimes life-threatening. It often means a stay in the hospital and urgent medical attention.5 It’s very important to spot the early signs of type 1 diabetes, as getting treatment right away can avoid DKA and other major problems.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

With type 2 diabetes, symptoms come on slowly, unlike type 1 diabetes.6 It’s possible not to notice any signs for years.6 Eventually, high sugar levels in the blood can hurt nerves and slow down the healing of cuts.6 As a result, people might feel tingling or lose feeling in their hands and feet.6 The slow start of type 2 diabetes symptoms happens because the body takes time to resist insulin.

Gradual Onset of Symptoms

Type 2 diabetes symptoms show up slowly over time, not all at once like in type 1.6 Some might not know they have it for years because the early signs are easy to miss.

Slow Healing of Cuts and Wounds

A key sign of type 2 diabetes is the body’s slow healing.6 High blood sugar can harm blood vessels and nerves, making healing tougher.

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Tingling or Numbness in Extremities

As type 2 diabetes worsens, it can damage nerves, called diabetic neuropathy.6 This harm can lead to a tingling, numb, or burning feeling in the hands, feet, and legs. Many people with diabetes feel this.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The main symptoms of diabetes are easy to spot. They include drinking a lot of water and peeing often. You might feel tired, lose weight for no clear reason, and want to eat more. Your vision might get fuzzy, and cuts might take longer to heal.2

All these are signs of high blood sugar. It happens when insulin, a hormone that processes sugar, is low. Or when the body doesn’t use what little insulin it has well. It’s vital to know these signs. Ignoring them can lead to severe health problems if diabetes goes untreated.2

Having to pee a lot is common among those with high blood sugar.1 Sometimes, it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. This condition can be deadly, causing a build-up of harmful chemicals called ketones in your blood.1

Too low or high blood sugar, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia respectively, can also show serious signs.1

It’s really important to notice the early signs of diabetes. Feeling more hungry, thirsty, or tired than usual could be a warning.2

Without proper care, diabetes can harm your heart, nerves, eyes, and more. So, it’s crucial to manage your blood sugar well.2 This includes controlling your weight and other risk factors. Doing so can make living with diabetes easier.2

Gestational Diabetes Symptoms

Many women who get gestational diabetes while pregnant don’t feel different7. Doctors usually find it during a blood sugar test at 24-28 weeks. Sometimes, women notice they’re really thirsty or have to go to the bathroom a lot8. This happens because the placenta makes hormones. These hormones stop the body from using insulin well, which causes high blood sugar8.

Gestational diabetes often shows up between 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy7. It affects a number of pregnant women7. Those over 25 or who are overweight have a bigger chance of getting it7. Also, if diabetes runs in your family or if you’re from specific ethnic groups, you’re more likely to have it7.

Women often don’t feel the symptoms of gestational diabetes, which is why tests are so important7. If not controlled, it can lead to issues like macrosomia, making babies bigger than usual because of the mother’s high blood sugar7. Babies might also have low blood sugar right after birth if their mother’s blood sugar was high7. Keeping an eye on blood sugar and making sure it stays normal is crucial for the baby’s health7.

Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) Symptoms

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is when the body lacks enough sugar to use as fuel.9 A blood sugar below 70 mg/dL when fasting can signal hypoglycemia.9 Symptoms include shakiness, dizziness, and feeling hungry. You might also feel tired, moody, or confused.

Shakiness and Dizziness

If you have diabetes and your blood sugar dips too low, you might feel shaky and dizzy.10 This often happens when you’ve had too much insulin or not eaten enough.9 Severe cases can lead to passing out or having a seizure.9

Hunger and Fatigue

Low blood sugar without diabetes is rare. It might come from some medicines, too much alcohol, or being very sick.910 Less common reasons are long periods without food, too much insulin, or not enough hormones.910 Symptoms vary, and some people don’t show signs at all.10

Irritability and Confusion

If not treated, low blood sugar can cause serious issues. This includes seizures and even death.910 It can also make you dizzy, prone to accidents, and confused.910 Treating it fast is key to prevent these problems.

Having low blood sugar often can sometimes stop you from noticing it.9 A device like a continuous glucose monitor can help catch it early.910
The chances of severe low blood sugar are higher for some, like those who use insulin.10

If you have low blood sugar signs and don’t have diabetes, get help right away.910 To prevent low blood sugar, check your sugar, eat on time, and take your meds carefully.10 Wear a medical ID if you’re at risk. This can save your life in an emergency.109 Being scared of low blood sugar might cause you to not take care of your diabetes well.9

Hyperglycemia (High Blood Sugar) Symptoms

Having high blood sugar makes your body show signs a lot like diabetes. These signs include more thirst and more bathroom trips, seeing poorly, feeling tired, and cuts that heal slowly.11 Your body cannot use all the extra sugar in your blood for energy. This lack of energy can cause dehydration and other big issues.12 If not treated, high blood sugar can cause a coma or lead to death. So, knowing the signs and seeing a doctor is very important.11

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Increased Thirst and Urination

Early signs of high blood sugar include needing to pee often and feeling very thirsty.11 When sugar levels are high, your kidneys try to get rid of it by making you pass more urine. This makes you lose water and get dehydrated.12

Blurred Vision and Fatigue

Seeing poorly and feeling tired are signs of high blood sugar.11 The fluid changes in your eyes make things look blurry.12 Also, your body cannot turn sugar into power well, so you feel weak and tired.11

Slow-Healing Sores and Infections

High blood sugar can make cuts and sores take longer to heal. It also raises the chance of getting an infection.11 This is because the extra sugar can hurt blood vessels and the immune system. This stops your body from fighting germs and healing properly.12

Diabetic Complications and Symptoms

Diabetes is a big deal if you don’t handle your blood sugar well. It can cause heart issues, making heart attacks and strokes more likely.2 You might also have nerve issues which make your arms and legs feel funny, or cause pain.13 Your kidneys could also get hurt, not working well to clean your blood. This can mess with your eyes too, possibly causing vision loss.13 To stay healthy, watch for any of these signs and get help fast.

Cardiovascular Disease

Diabetes raises the chances of heart problems, like heart attacks and strokes.13 It’s because high blood sugar can mess up your blood vessels, affecting how blood moves around.13 If you already have high blood pressure or smoke, diabetes makes it even worse.13

Nerve Damage (Neuropathy)

If diabetes isn’t controlled, it can hurt your nerves, causing pain and weird feelings.13 This happens a lot in your hands and feet. It can even mess with things like eating or doing the deed.13

Kidney Damage (Nephropathy)

High blood sugar can mess up how your kidneys work.13 Over time, this might turn into kidney disease or failure.13 It’s key to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check to protect your kidneys.13

Eye Damage (Retinopathy)

Diabetes hurts the tiny blood vessels in your eyes.13 It might take your sight if not treated early enough.13 Get your eyes checked often and treat problems right away to keep your sight safe.13


When to See a Doctor

If you have symptoms like feeling more thirsty than usual, needing to pee often, feeling tired, or losing weight without trying, you may have14 diabetes. It’s crucial to talk to your doctor if you notice these signs. Why? Well, catching diabetes early means you can start treatment quicker.

For those already diagnosed, keeping a close eye on your health is a must. Regular check-ups help prevent serious issues.1 Alert your doctor if you feel you might have high blood sugar, shown by nausea and quick breaths. Or if you think your blood sugar is too low, with symptoms like shaking and being confused. Fast action is vital for good diabetes management.

Risk Factors for Diabetes

Several things can make you more likely to get diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can run in families. If someone in your family has it, you might get it too. Also, if you have certain genes, your risk goes up2. For type 2 diabetes, things like not being active, being overweight, or being over 45 can raise your risk. This is also true for people from certain racial or ethnic backgrounds, such as African Americans or Asian Americans6. Women who are too heavy when they become pregnant are at risk for gestational diabetes.

Family History

Your family’s health history matters a lot. It can influence both types of diabetes. This includes both genes and the world around us. If your family has type 1 diabetes, testing for certain immune system cells can show your risk. Finding these cells might mean you’re more likely to get type 1 diabetes2.

Obesity and Inactivity

Being too heavy or not moving enough is a big factor for type 2 diabetes6. If you carry most of your weight in your belly, you’re at even more risk6. Men with big waists, over 40 inches, and women with waists bigger than 35 inches are at higher risk. Also, not exercising raises your chances of getting type 2 diabetes6.

Age and Ethnicity

As you get older, your risk for type 2 diabetes goes up, especially after 356. Some people are more at risk based on their race or ethnicity. This is the case for people of Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islander backgrounds. They are more likely than white people to get type 2 diabetes. African Americans, Alaska Natives, and American Indians have higher risks too6,15.

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Diabetes is a serious condition that needs careful management. Its symptoms include more thirst and urination, feeling tired, seeing poorly, and healing slowly. These signs can change with the type of diabetes you have.16 Type 1 diabetes can come on strong and fast. Type 2 usually comes on slowly.17 It’s key to spot diabetes early because it can lead to other health problems like heart issues, trouble with nerves, kidney damage, and vision loss.16 But, you can control diabetes well with medicine, lifestyle changes, and seeing your doctor regularly.17 Watch your blood sugar, manage weight, and work on other risks to lessen your chance of getting diabetes and its problems.

16 Diabetes is on the rise around the world, especially in poorer countries.18 By 2015, 40 to 50% of the global population had or was at risk for diabetes. By 2040, this number is expected to grow.16 Most diabetes cases are type 2, which can progress without showing symptoms for years.17 Prediabetes, where blood sugar is high but not at diabetes level, can happen to some people. Being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, and some ethnic backgrounds raise the risk.

16 It’s important to learn about diabetes and how to fight it. Early changes like more exercise and better diet can stop severe diabetes problems.17 Healthy living is key to managing or avoiding type 2 diabetes. Try to keep a healthy weight, eat well, and stay active.17 If you have diabetes, checking your blood sugar often is a must. Metformin is a common drug for type 2 diabetes to aid in lowering blood sugar and improving how your body uses insulin.


What are the early signs and symptoms of diabetes?

Early signs of diabetes include feeling more thirsty and needing to pee a lot. You might find yourself tired often and losing weight for no clear reason. Feeling hungry all the time, seeing blurry and healing slow, are also possible signs. These issues happen when your body can’t deal with sugar well.

What are the main symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

For type 1 diabetes, symptoms show up fast over a few weeks. It’s different from type 2 because your immune system attacks insulin-making cells. Without the right treatment, it can cause a dangerous condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes symptoms come on slowly. People may not feel any for years. It can damage nerves and slow down wound healing. This leads to tingling or numbness in hands and feet over time.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Most women don’t notice any symptoms if they have gestational diabetes. It’s usually found through blood sugar tests during the 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes, they might feel extra thirsty or need to pee a lot.

What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)?

When blood sugar is too low, you might feel shaky, dizzy, or hungry. Fatigue and being cranky are also signs. People with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, can face these symptoms if they use too much insulin or skip meals.

What are the symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)?

High blood sugar can make you thirsty, pee a lot, and feel tired. It can also lead to blurry vision and wounds healing slowly. Without proper energy use, high sugar in the blood causes issues like dehydration.

What are some of the long-term complications of diabetes?

Diabetes, when poorly controlled, can cause big health problems. These include heart disease, nerve and kidney damage, and eye issues. Knowing the signs of these problems early and seeking help can prevent them from getting worse.

When should I see a doctor for diabetes symptoms?

If you think you have diabetes due to the signs, don’t wait. Talk to your doctor soon. If you already know you have it, stay in touch with your medical team to manage your blood sugar. Call your doctor if you spot high or low blood sugar signs.

What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?

Different types of diabetes have various risk factors. For type 1, family and genetic history might up your odds. Type 2 risks include being inactive, older than 45, or overweight. Certain races and gestational diabetes in pregnant women also have their unique risk factors.

Source Links

  1. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/understanding-diabetes-symptoms
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444
  3. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353011
  5. https://diabetes.org/about-diabetes/type-1
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20351193
  7. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=gestational-diabetes-85-P00337
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20355339
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373685
  10. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20371525
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373631
  12. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9815-hyperglycemia-high-blood-sugar
  13. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications
  14. https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/diabetes-warning-signs
  15. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-causes
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311308/
  17. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323627
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8665249/