Diabetes symptoms are often subtle. Here's what to look for — and when to consult your doctor.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Millions of people in the United States have diabetes but don't know it. Early symptoms of diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, aren't always obvious. In fact, signs and symptoms can come on so gradually that people may have type 2 diabetes for years before they're diagnosed with the disease.
But if you notice the following signs and symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Blurred vision
- Unexpected weight loss
- Increased hunger
- Slow-healing sores and frequent infections
- Red, swollen gums
- Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
Understanding possible diabetes symptoms can lead to early diagnosis and treatment, which can help you prevent the complications of diabetes and lead to a lifetime of better health.
Here are more details about the signs and symptoms of diabetes:
Excessive thirst and increased urination are common diabetes signs and symptoms. When you have diabetes, excess glucose — a type of sugar — builds up in your blood. Your kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess glucose.
When your kidneys can't keep up, the excess glucose is excreted into your urine, dragging along fluids from your tissues, which makes you dehydrated. This will usually leave you feeling thirsty. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you'll urinate even more.
Diabetes can make you feel tired. High blood glucose impairs your body's ability to use glucose for energy needs. Dehydration from increased urination also can leave you feeling fatigued.
When you lose glucose through frequent urination, you also lose calories. At the same time, diabetes may keep the glucose from your food from reaching your cells — leading to constant hunger. The combined effect can potentially cause rapid weight loss, especially with type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes symptoms sometimes involve your vision. High levels of blood glucose 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 don't cause vision problems. However, if these changes progress undetected, they can lead to vision loss and blindness.
High levels of blood glucose can lead to poor blood flow and impair your body's natural healing process. Because of this, people with diabetes may notice slow-healing sores, especially on the feet. In women with diabetes, bladder and vaginal yeast infections may occur more often.
Too much glucose in your blood can affect the function of your nerves. You may notice tingling and loss of sensation (numbness) in your hands and feet, as well as burning pain in your arms, hands, legs and feet.
Diabetes may weaken your ability to fight germs, which increases the risk of infection in your gums and in the bones that hold your teeth in place. Your gums may pull away from your teeth, your teeth may become loose, or you may develop sores or pockets of pus in your gums — especially if you have a gum infection before diabetes develops.
If you notice any possible diabetes signs or symptoms, contact your doctor. Diabetes is a serious condition, and the earlier it's diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin. With your active participation and the support of your health care team, you can manage diabetes and enjoy an active, healthy life.
June 03, 2021
- Diabetes overview. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview. Accessed April 22, 2019.
- Diabetes symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/symptoms.html. Accessed April 22, 2019.
- American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes
— 2019. Diabetes Care. 2019;42:S1.
- Diabetes mellitus (DM). Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/diabetes-mellitus-and-disorders-of-carbohydrate-metabolism/diabetes-mellitus-dm. Accessed April 22, 2019.
- Stern SC, et al. Diabetes. In: Symptom to Diagnosis: An Evidence-Based Guide. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed April 29, 2019.
- Papadakis MA, et al., eds. Diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2019. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2019. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed April 23, 2019.
- Jameson JL, et al., eds. Diabetes mellitus: Diagnosis, classification, and pathophysiology. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2018. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed April 23, 2019.
- Eye complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/eye-complications/. Accessed April 22, 2019.
- Preventing diabetes problems. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems. Accessed April 22, 2019.
- Complications of diabetes mellitus. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/diabetes-mellitus-and-disorders-of-carbohydrate-metabolism/complications-of-diabetes-mellitus. Accessed April 22, 2019.