Diabetes symptoms: When diabetes symptoms are a concern
Diabetes symptoms are often subtle. Here's what to look for — and when to consult your doctor.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Early symptoms of diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, can be subtle or seemingly harmless — that is, if you even have symptoms at all. Over time, however, you may develop diabetes complications, even if you haven't had diabetes symptoms.
In the United States alone, more than 8 million people have undiagnosed diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. But you don't need to become a statistic. Understanding possible diabetes symptoms can lead to early diagnosis and treatment — and a lifetime of better health. If you're experiencing any of the following diabetes signs and symptoms, see your doctor.
Excessive thirst and increased urination
Excessive thirst (also called polydipsia) and increased urination (also known as polyuria) are classic diabetes symptoms.
When you have diabetes, excess sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood. Your kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar. If your kidneys can't keep up, the excess sugar is excreted into your urine, dragging along fluids from your tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you'll urinate even more.
You may feel fatigued. Many factors can contribute to this. They include dehydration from increased urination and your body's inability to function properly, since it's less able to use sugar for energy needs.
Weight fluctuations also fall under the umbrella of possible diabetes signs and symptoms. When you lose sugar through frequent urination, you also lose calories. At the same time, diabetes may keep the sugar from your food from reaching your cells — leading to constant hunger. The combined effect is potentially rapid weight loss, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes symptoms sometimes involve your vision. High levels of blood sugar pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of your eyes. This affects your ability to focus.
Left untreated, diabetes can cause new blood vessels to form in your retina — the back part of your eye — and damage established vessels. For most people, these early changes do not cause vision problems. However, if these changes progress undetected, they can lead to vision loss and blindness.
April 21, 2016
- Statistics about diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/. Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.
- Am I at risk for type 2 diabetes? National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/type-2-diabetes-taking-steps-lower-your-risk-diabetes/Pages/index.aspx#3. Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.
- Diabetes mellitus (DM). Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/diabetes-mellitus-and-disorders-of-carbohydrate-metabolism/diabetes-mellitus-(dm). Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.
- Longo DL, et al., eds. Diabetes mellitus: Diagnosis, classification, and pathophysiology. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Jan. 28, 2016.
- Stern SC, et al. Diabetes. In: Symptom to Diagnosis: An Evidence-Based Guide. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2015. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Jan. 28, 2016.
- Complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/?loc=symptoms. Accessed Jan. 28, 2016.
- Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your teeth and gums healthy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/prevent-diabetes-problems/Pages/keep-your-mouth-healthy.aspx. Accessed Jan. 28, 2016.