Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes produces many symptoms, including frequent urination, infections and weight loss. Type 1 diabetes symptoms usually develop more quickly than Type 2 symptoms. Symptoms may also differ between men and women. Contact your doctor if you experience any diabetes symptoms.

Last Modified: September 5, 2023
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Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes has a number of early warning signs. Noticing these signs in yourself and others can significantly improve the likelihood of an early diagnosis.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Symptoms are largely the same across both types, but those symptoms may present differently in people depending on the type. Men and women may also present with slightly different symptoms.

Some of the most common and universal symptoms of diabetes include:
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased thirst
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing cuts or sores

People who experience any of these symptoms should monitor themselves carefully for further problems.

Contact your doctor if the symptoms persist or return quickly. Your doctor may schedule diabetes testing to confirm whether you have the condition.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Most of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are similar to gestational and Type 2 diabetes. The difference is the speed with which they appear. Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes often come on quickly and can easily become severe. This difference is part of the reason why Type 1 diabetes is usually detected earlier than Type 2.

Some patients with Type 1 diabetes may show symptoms of ketoacidosis, which occurs when an inability to utilize glucose causes the body to rely on fat. These symptoms can include nausea, confusion and a distinctive breath odor that is often described as “fruity” and can smell similar to nail polish remover because of the production of acetone. This condition can be serious and requires emergency care.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are often similar to those of Type 1 diabetes, although they are often less severe.

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes often develop slowly over time, and some may be mistaken for normal signs of aging. This can lead many people to ignore warning signs in the early stages of the condition, delaying their diagnosis. Always take any symptoms of diabetes seriously and discuss them with your doctor, especially if you are at high risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes rarely causes any noticeable symptoms. When it does cause problems like increased urination and hunger, these symptoms are often viewed as typical side effects of pregnancy.

Most women who have gestational diabetes only discover it when they are given routine screenings as part of their prenatal care regime. These screenings are conducted regardless of whether a woman has had any gestational diabetes symptoms.

Gestational diabetes screenings involve a series of blood tests that a midwife or OB-GYN will order. You will be asked to fast for at least 8 hours before having your blood drawn the first time.

If fasting blood glucose levels appear high, your doctor will likely order a glucose tolerance test during which you will drink a sugar solution and have blood glucose levels tested at various timepoints. This test helps to determine how efficiently your body can clear excess glucose from the blood.

Diabetes Symptoms in Men

In addition to general diabetes symptoms, men may also experience distinct symptoms. Some men with diabetes do not display any of these symptoms. Likewise, many men with these symptoms do not have diabetes.

  • Muscle weakness
  • Genital thrush
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low testosterone

Always discuss any symptoms you are experiencing with your doctor and get tested for any conditions they believe you may have.

Diabetes Symptoms in Women

Women with diabetes may experience any of the general symptoms of diabetes. In addition, they may also experience:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Sexual dysfunction and reduced sex drive

Not all women with diabetes experience these symptoms. A lack of symptoms does not necessarily mean you do not have diabetes. These symptoms may also be indicators of many different health problems. If you notice any, report them to your doctor for further investigation.

Prediabetes Symptoms

Like gestational diabetes, prediabetes often goes unnoticed and undetected. Many people have the condition for years without experiencing any prediabetes symptoms. Typically, most people aren’t aware they have prediabetes until a pattern of high blood sugar levels during blood testing is observed.

That’s why it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels with routine blood tests. This is especially true if you are at high risk for developing diabetes or prediabetes. The A1C test is one of the most powerful tools to evaluate the development of prediabetes. It provides a running average of your blood glucose levels for 2-3 months before testing, so it can catch elevated glucose other blood tests might not detect.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, darkened patches of skin may be an early sign of prediabetes. Although this finding requires more research, it is always a good idea to have a doctor examine any new moles or dark patches on your skin. Mention any concerns you may have about prediabetes to your doctor.

Risk Factors of Diabetes

People with a family history of diabetes are more likely to develop the condition. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include high blood pressure, high triglycerides and a history of heart disease or stroke. Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes are not yet as well defined, but age plays a role with the condition presenting in younger patients.

Children and teenagers are more likely to have Type 1 diabetes than Type 2. However, Type 2 is becoming more common among younger people. Either type is possible at any age.

People who are at high risk for developing diabetes should be regularly tested for the condition. It is usually possible to manage diabetes with a prescribed diabetes diet designed with help from a doctor or registered dietitian and a safe exercise plan, but this gets harder as the condition becomes more severe. Early diagnosis is a key factor in achieving a good outcome.

When to See Your Doctor

All symptoms of diabetes are serious, and you should talk about any symptoms you are experiencing with your doctor. However, some symptoms should be addressed even more urgently.

Diabetes symptoms accompanied by nausea, vomiting and stomach pain may indicate a medical emergency. Similarly, cuts and other injuries that do not heal properly can easily get infected and become dangerous to your health. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Symptoms of diabetes may seem mild at first, especially if you have Type 2 diabetes. Always take any symptoms seriously and watch for new ones. If you find yourself suffering from multiple diabetes symptoms, let your doctor know.

If you are at high risk for diabetes, mention this to your doctor at your next annual physical. They may recommend that you be screened for the condition as part of future physicals.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.