Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes vary with each person, with age, and with the type and severity of the diabetes. Nevertheless, there are some common patterns in the types of symptoms.

Mild Early Symptoms: The early symptoms of diabetes are very mild. The first phase is often called “pre-diabetes” and may have almost no symptoms at all. There is a gradual progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. Many people have diabetes without noticing anything except some vague symptoms such as just generally feeling a little unwell. However, symptoms progress over time, usually taking weeks or months with Type 1 diabetes, or taking even longer, months or years, with Type 2 diabetes.

Moderate to Severe Symptoms: As undiagnosed diabetes progresses, the symptoms become more severe. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst. It starts out as a mild thirst and will eventually progress to an unquenchable thirst.
  • Excessive urination. Progressively worse symptoms of both increased frequency of urination, increased volume of urination, urinary urgency, and so on. The need to urine will gradually become extreme (usually also with an extreme thirst).
  • Dehydration. As symptoms progressive worsen, the person becomes dehydrated due to excessive urination, despite drinking volumes of fluid from increased thirst. Dehydration has its own serious risks, such as Electrolyte Imbalance. Read more about: Symptoms of Dehydration.
  • Weight loss. A person may gradually start to lose a little weight. The weight loss is usually “unexplained weight loss”, which can occur despite the person eating more than usual. Initially mild, it can become quite a large amount of weight loss, and ultimately if the diabetes is undiagnosed long enough, the person may start to appear gaunt and pale from a combination of weight loss and dehydration.
  • Gaunt appearance (pallor). A person will initially appear fine, but after progression, a person with diabetes often has lost weight, looks gaunt, looks thin, looks pale, and looks ill. This is often a combination of weight loss and dehydration.
  • Increased hunger. At first a gradual increase in hunger, and then eventually a voracious hunger. Often with the bizarre situation of losing weight despite eating mountains of food.
  • Irritability. A person with diabetes may show signs of irritability and mild personality changes, which gradually progress as the diabetic blood sugar levels worsen.
  • Blurred vision. As blood sugars get higher, the lens in the eye gets distorted, leading to blurred vision, often similar to near-sightedness. In a patient in the 40’s or 50’s, this may be mistaken for presbyopia. The blurred vision may come and go, improving and then getting worse, due to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. (Note that this blurred vision is not usually from the dreaded diabetic retinopathy; it is a disorder of the lens from diabetes, rather than a disorder of the retina. However, you can have both types of eye problems at the time of diagnosis if you’ve had undiagnosed diabetes for long enough.)
  • Muscle cramps, muscle spasms. Some people with diabetes experience muscle cramping or muscle spasms as a symptom. The symptoms may vary. For example, spasms in the large muscles in the legs, which might occur at night.
  • Rashes (leg rash). A classic symptom of undiagnosed diabetes is having a problem with persistent rashes on the lower legs (including ankles or feet). Usually the problem is a fungal infection of the skin, but the body cannot get rid of it due to lowered immunity and poor blood circulation due to diabetes.
  • Candida (thrush). This is one of the various types of fungal infections that can thrive in the body if blood sugars are too high. A person with undiagnosed diabetes may get candida more often, or have recurring infections of candida.
  • Toe pain (or other sensations in other body areas). The high blood sugar levels of diabetes can damage the nerves, especially the peripheral nerves such as the feet and toes. Toe pain or toe tingling/numbness can be early signs of diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) due to undiagnosed diabetes. The toes are the most commonly affected area.

Deadly Symptoms: If undiagnosed diabetes is allowed to progress to the final stages, it can be fatal. The concerns are:

Although there are various symptoms of DKA and HHNS that you should review, some of the hallmark symptoms of an impending DKA episode include:

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.