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Early Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes

HealthcareOnTime Team 2024-04-20 2024-04-21 3 Min Read
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  • Early Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes

    Identifying the early signs of diabetes is an important step that can help you prevent the onset (borderline diabetes or prediabetes) and the worsening of the disease. 

    While the symptoms may vary for all individuals based on personal factors, some common symptoms of diabetes are easily detectable. Such symptoms include increased urination, frequent thirst, sudden weight loss, fatigue, and high hunger pangs. 

    In this blog, we provide details about these diabetes symptoms and discuss what happens when you ignore them.

    Did you know: 

    • In 2021, approximately 537 million adults, or one out of every ten, were diagnosed with diabetes. Projections suggest this figure will increase to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045.
    • Roughly half of all adults with diabetes (44%, or about 240 million people) are not aware they have the condition, with the majority suffering from type 2 diabetes. 
    • In 2021, diabetes accounted for a minimum of $966 billion in healthcare spending, which represents 9% of total global healthcare expenditures. 1
    • Over 90% of diabetes cases are type 2, majorly influenced by factors such as urbanisation, an aging population, decreased physical activity, and increasing rates of overweight and obesity. 2

    How Diabetes Impacts the Body: The Significance of Early Detection

    Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels in the body. 3

    In diabetes, the functioning of insulin gets affected because of either of the following two reasons:

    • Your body is not able to produce sufficient insulin.
    • Even when your body yields enough insulin, it cannot make the most of it.

    As a result, the sugar levels in your blood rise. It eventually leads to complications, like 

    • Partial or complete blindness
    • Heart disease 
    • Diabetic nephropathy (gives rise to kidney disorders)

    But the list of threats is not limited to this. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), deaths due to diabetes increased by a significant rate of 3% from 2000 to 2019. 4

    Hence, early detection of diabetes is essential. For this, it is crucial to address vital questions: 

    • What are the 10 warning signs of diabetes? 
    • How can I identify diabetes mellitus symptoms early on? 
    • Do diabetes symptoms vary with age and gender? 

    Below, we have addressed these questions and a few other important ones. These can help you detect the early signs of diabetes and take the required steps to prevent the disease's onset or worsening if you already have it.  

    Can You Have Diabetes Without Any Symptoms? 

    Diabetes symptoms become visible when your blood sugar levels rise too much. Likewise, the higher your blood sugar, the more severe the sugar symptoms. 

    What's more concerning is that some people, especially those who have prediabetes, gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not have symptoms. 5

    So, yes, you can have diabetes without any sugar symptoms. 

    While the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes are easily detectable because of their high severity, other types of diabetes usually don't show any clear-cut symptoms. These include:

    What Are The Dangers Of Undiagnosed Diabetes?

    When you ignore diabetes symptoms, the disease remains undiagnosed. It can pose a threat to your long-term health. 

    Research studies have concluded that undiagnosed diabetes can eventually develop into severe health issues such as:

    • High blood pressure 
    • Obesity (unhealthy weight gain) 
    • Unhealthy cholesterol levels (negatively affect heart health in the long run)
    • Eye disease
    • Kidney Damage 6

    Can You Have Diabetes With Just One Symptom?

    No research proves that diabetes can happen because of the presence of just one symptom. 

    Still, sudden, extreme, and unexpected weight loss is one of the most common diabetes symptoms observed in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cases. However, it is a good idea to visit your doctor if you have the following symptoms for a prolonged duration:

    • Fatigue
    • Restlessness
    • Body pain 7

    Recognising The "4 Ts": Early Symptoms Of Diabetes  

    An increased urge to urinate, feeling unusually thirsty, staying tired all the time, and sudden weight loss are 4 of the most common symptoms of diabetes. We like to describe these as the "4 Ts" of diabetes.8

    Here is an overview of what these diabetes symptoms mean:


    • It is one of the most easily detectable and common symptoms of diabetes. 
    • A person who is at risk of diabetes (or somebody who already has it) will need to go to the bathroom more often than a normal, healthy person.


    • When a person goes to pee more often, it is quite understandable that they are losing more fluids from their body. 
    • As a result, their body gets dehydrated, and their need to consume water also increases. 
    • It ultimately leads to increased thirst, which is yet another more frequently observed sign on the list of diabetes mellitus signs and symptoms.


    • Dehydration that results from excessive urine expulsion can make you feel more tired than ever before. 
    • When there is a high level of sugar in your blood, your body cannot use it to its maximum benefit. 
    • As a result, it hampers the mechanisms by which your body uses this sugar to produce energy. 
    • Ultimately, it leads to fatigue and tiredness. 


    • Frequent urination has many adverse effects, such as dehydration and tiredness. Another adverse effect is calorie loss.
    • A loss of sugar (through urine) translates into a loss of calories, which can cause a person to lose a lot of weight.
    • Rapid weight loss is particularly evident for people who have type 1 diabetes. But it may be a diabetes type 2 symptom (in some cases).

    Beyond The "4 Ts": What Are Other Warning Signs Of Diabetes? 

    Signs And Symptoms Of Type 2 Diabetes

    Here is a list of the most frequently observed type 2 diabetes symptoms:

    • Feeling more thirsty than before
    • Having an increased need to go to the toilet
    • Losing weight without even trying
    • More tiredness
    • Frequent headaches
    • Dry mouth
    • Blurry vision
    • A sensation of tingling in your hands and feet
    • Your wounds, sores, and infections start taking more time to heal
    • Loss of consciousness (it can even lead to passing out or fainting)
    • Dental health problems like red and swollen gums 

    Signs And Symptoms Of Type 1 Diabetes

    Signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus type 1 can appear at any time. They are usually similar to those seen in type 2 diabetes, except for some sugar symptoms. 

    Signs of diabetes that are common to both type 1 and type 2 include:

    • Increased thirst
    • Increased urination
    • Increased hunger
    • Increased fatigue (more tiredness)
    • Weight loss
    • Blurry vision

    Unusual symptoms that are unique to type 1 diabetes include:

    • Sudden mood changes 
    • Irritability
    • Bed-wetting (this happens when children catch type 1 diabetes)

    Note that bed-wetting is only an observable diabetes symptom in children who don't usually have the habit of peeing in the bed.9

    Signs And Symptoms Of Gestational Diabetes

    While this might not be the case for every pregnant woman, many women are at risk of developing pregnancy-related diabetes. This type of diabetes is called Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, and it is prevalent in overweight women. 

    Gestational diabetes occurs because, during pregnancy, the body undergoes various hormonal changes. These changes make it challenging for the female body to process the blood sugar that it produces. 10

    Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus in a female who is pregnant. However, symptoms that usually occur include:

    • Urinating more frequently
    • Increased thirst

    Signs And Symptoms Of Hyperglycemia

    The condition in which the blood sugar levels of a person rise higher than usual is called hyperglycemia. In this condition, the glucose levels go beyond 180 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL. 

    Broadly, the sugar disease symptoms associated with hyperglycemia can be of two types:

    • Early Signs of Diabetes
    • Increased thirst
    • Increase urination
    • Blurry vision
    • Fatigue and bodily weakness
    • Later signs of diabetes

    Ketoacidosis is a complication of hyperglycemia, and it results in the following symptoms:

    • Loss of consciousness 
    • Confusion
    • Breath that has a fruity smell
    • Dry mouth
    • Pain in the abdominal area
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Shortness of breath 15

    Signs And Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

    When the blood sugar levels drop below normal levels, below 70 mg/dL, the patient has low blood sugar. It is medically termed as hypoglycemia. 

    Hypoglycemia is one of the common symptoms of diabetes in people who have type 1 diabetes.16

    Here is a list of the symptoms observed in hypoglycemia:

    • Increased heart rate 
    • Being irritated more often (mood changes)
    • Shaking
    • Sweating
    • Nervousness 
    • Anxiety
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness
    • Hunger

    Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetic Coma

    A diabetic coma is a disastrous condition in which a person becomes unconscious. It happens when the sugar levels drop to extremely low or extremely high levels (hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, respectively). 

    If the unconsciousness persists for a long duration and goes untreated, then it can even lead to death. 17

    Symptoms of diabetes mellitus-related coma usually come from a combination of symptoms that occur because of uncontrolled blood sugar levels. These tend to occur before the actual diabetic coma and include:

    • Dizziness
    • Weakness in the body
    • Vomiting
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Confusion 18

    Consequences Of  Ignoring The Signs Of Diabetes Onset 

    Diabetes complications are those adverse health conditions that occur because of uncontrolled blood sugar levels. These complications develop slowly over time in a person who already has diabetes. Therefore, if you ignore the signs of diabetes onset, there is a higher chance these complications might affect your long-term health because of a lack of diagnosis. 

    Here's a list of the long-term adverse effects of ignoring diabetes symptoms:

    • Cardiovascular Disorders: Blood vessel disease, heart attack, heart stroke, coronary artery disease
    • Diabetic Retinopathy: Macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma
    • Kidney Damage: It can result in chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
    • Neuropathy: Nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy 
    • Sexual Dysfunction: One of the more common signs of diabetes in men is erectile dysfunction or impotence. 
    • Oral Health Problems: Tooth damage and gum infections (swelling of gums or their loosening) are also prevalent. 
    • Week Immunity System: High blood glucose levels interfere with the functioning of white blood cells (erythrocytes).19 As a result, your body's ability to fight against infections decreases significantly.

    Diagnosis And Tests: Types Of Diabetes Tests 

    There are different types of diabetes tests that you can take according to diabetes type and severity. Therefore, here is a list of lab tests that are helpful in the diagnosis of diabetes:

    List Of Lab Tests For Diabetes Patients According to Diabetes Type

    The lab tests for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes are usually the same and include:

    The lab tests for gestational diabetes include:

    • Glucose Screening Test
    • Glucose Tolerance Test 20

    To summarise, whether you have a family history of diabetes or not, it is a good idea to take the sugar profile test or master health checkup to ensure you are not at risk of it. 


    Ref Links: 


    Is feeling sleepy after eating a sign of diabetes?

    Feeling asleep right after eating is a potential symptom of hyperglycemia. So, if you feel sleepy after you eat, it could be one of the many diabetes symptoms.

    Is itching a sign of diabetes?

    Yes, itching is a sign of diabetes. It occurs due to diabetic polyneuropathy or, in simple terms, nerve damage due to diabetes.

    Is frequent urination a sign of diabetes?

    As already discussed, frequent urination is one of the most prevalent symptoms of diabetes.


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