Symptoms of Diabetes

symptoms of diabetesKnowing the symptoms of diabetes, including the very first signs are critical to catching the disease early. With almost 25 million people currently diagnosed with diabetes, you would think that identifying the symptoms of diabetes would be fairly straight forward issue.

Incredibly, however, the National Institute of Health estimates that at least 7 million Americans have diabetes, but are unaware of their condition. This represents over 27 percent of all diabetes cases in the United States. There is an incredible disconnect between what is being diagnosed and what is actually occurring in this country. More importantly, the lack of diagnosis delays proper treatment and can contribute to further complications.

Okay, so why is it so hard for doctors and individuals alike to spot the first signs of diabetes, such a prolific and well known disease?

The simple answer is that the early warning signs of diabetes tend to be fairly common and very subtle. Many Americans may simply shrug off the symptoms as harmless. For example, fatigue is a symptom of diabetes. Neither your doctor nor you probably leapt to a diabetes diagnosis with that symptom!

Unfortunately, these symptoms can be anything but harmless. The symptoms can also be similar depending upon the type you may have. However, it is important to look at how each type’s symptoms manifest itself and how you can spot it early and avoid complications.

Let’s take a look at the most common types of diabetes and their corresponding symptoms.

Symptoms of Diabetes – Type 1

diabetes symptomsThe symptoms of type 1 diabetes are a bit unique because they tend to manifest themselves rather quickly. Often the symptoms will develop in a matter of months, if not weeks.

While the symptoms may develop rapidly, unfortunately the destruction of certain cells may have been occurring for years.

Another problem is that the symptoms tend to be rather generic or non-specific to diabetes.

As the following list highlights, the associated diabetes symptoms could match any number of different conditions or even no condition at all. The most common warning signs (in no particular order) are:

  • Increased thirst and Urination
  • Increased Hunger
  • Weight Loss
  • Blurred Vision
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Tingling or Numbness in the Hands or Feet
  • Very Dry Skin
  • Slow healing Sores or Wounds
  • Increased Infections

Stomach pains, vomiting or nausea can also occur with some of the above symptoms. Recognizing the signs is especially problematic for type 1 diabetes. The failure to timely diagnose and treat with insulin can lead directly to a diabetic coma, also known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Like any health condition, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is best that you consult immediately with your health care provider.

Symptoms of Diabetes – Type 2

Type 2 diabetes symptoms can be very gradual, unlike the more sudden onset that can occur with type 1 diabetes. Often people dismiss the symptoms as they can be subtle and do not appear overly harmful. Unfortunately, the longer you go without treatment, the more damage and complications can occur.

The subtle nature of the warning signs is what contributes significantly to the number of undiagnosed cases in the United States.

The 9 symptoms enumerated above for type 1 diabetes are exactly the same for type 2. The key difference tends to be the quickness that the symptoms manifest themselves. Like any serious health condition, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is best that you consult immediately with your health care provider.

The best approach is to have your doctor perform a blood sugar test at your annual check up. Many people experience very few or none of the above signs of diabetes, so pre-emptive testing is the safest and best way to diagnose. This is particularly true if you if you are overweight, have a family history of the disease or have other risk factors for diabetes.

Other Considerations

Reading these articles are critical for you to learn the first signs of diabetes. The earlier you catch the warning signs, the earlier you can begin treatment. If you want, take a quick read about the more traditional causes of How Do People Get Diabetes?

If you do not yet have diabetes and want to know some of the risk factors, including your risk factors for developing Pre-Diabetes you will want to check out our resources there.

If you already have diabetes, then you may want to familiarize yourself with the diabetic coma symptoms.

A related condition is Polyphagia. Take a look at these familiar symptoms!

By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed February 2013.


NIH Publication No. 11-3892, updated December 2011(accessed February 2013)