Diabetes often goes undiagnosed, especially type 2 diabetes, because many of its symptoms can seem so subtle or harmless – if you notice them at all. In some cases, people can live for months, even years without knowing they have the disease.
But early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment is important. Catching the disease early can decrease the chance of developing complications and lead to a lifetime of better health.
Diabetes means the body is unable to properly use and store a form of sugar called glucose. There are two major types of the disease. In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin, a hormone that enables the body to use glucose. Type 2 diabetes results when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or is unable to use insulin properly.
Type 1 diabetes symptoms tend to be more dramatic and impactful, and are usually recognized in childhood or early adolescence. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are often more subtle and may be attributed to aging or obesity. Common symptoms of both major types of diabetes include:
Being very thirsty and increased urination.
Does it seem like you’re going to the bathroom constantly? Diabetes causes excess sugar, or glucose, to build up in your blood, forcing your kidneys to work extra hard to filter out or absorb the surpluses. When the kidneys become overwhelmed, they start to draw water out of the body to push the extra sugar out through increased urination. This, in turn, can leave you dehydrated.
Weight loss and increased hunger.
You’re not working out more or eating less – in fact, you’re hungry all the time. What gives? Diabetes keeps your body from properly using and storing sugar, which can mean lost calories and cause your muscles to tap into fat stores for energy. At the same time, your cells become energy starved – leading to constant hunger.
To compensate for high blood sugar, the body pulls fluid from all over your body – including your eyes. This can affect your ability to focus. Untreated diabetes can also lead to blood vessel damage and vision loss.
It’s the glucose again. When your cells don’t get the glucose they need, they become energy starved and you feel tired and run down. Dehydration can also add to this symptom.
Frequent and long-lasting bladder, kidney, skin, or other infections.
Researchers haven’t quite figured this one out, but infections seem to be more common in persons with diabetes. It could be that the disease disrupts your body’s natural healing process and immunity.
Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
Diabetes can lead to neuropathy, or nerve damage that leaves parts of your body – usually extremities – tingly or lacking sensation.
Other symptoms can include irritability, nausea, cuts or bruises that don't heal, dry mouth, headaches and red, inflamed, tender gums.