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How to detect diabetes symptoms

How to detect diabetes symptoms

Get your blood sugar tested if you have any of the symptoms of diabetes.

If you have any of the following diabetes symptoms, see your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested:

  • Urinate (pee) a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Are very hungry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

People who have type 1 diabetes may also have nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains. Type 1 diabetes symptoms can develop in just a few weeks or months and can be severe. Type 1 diabetes usually starts when you’re a child, teen, or young adult but can happen at any age.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes symptoms often take several years to develop. Some people don’t notice any symptoms at all. Type 2 diabetes usually starts when you’re an adult, though more and more children and teens are developing it. Because symptoms are hard to spot, it’s important to know the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Make sure to visit your doctor if you have any of them.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) usually doesn’t have any symptoms. If you’re pregnant, your doctor should test you for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. If needed, you can make changes to protect your health and your baby’s health.

Catching diabetes early is key. The sooner you know your child has it, the sooner he or she can be treated and avoid serious complications.

But in order to catch it, you have to know what to look for. And if your child is exhibiting symptoms, they’re already on the path to problems. So if you start to see symptoms and are concerned that your child may have diabetes or another health issue (as many of the items on this list point to various diseases or illnesses and are not specific to diabetes), please take them to the doctor to have blood tests done rather than wait for more symptoms to show up.

Watch for the 11 signs and symptoms below to help get your child the diagnosis they need before the situation becomes more serious.

Increased heart rate

If your child complains about their heart pumping quickly or even hurting, something isn’t quite right. Of course, keep in mind that your child’s heart works faster than yours no matter what (hearts beat slower as you age) and that it will pump faster if your child has just been active or frightened. But if it persists and you’re concerned, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Get it checked out.

Extreme thirst or hunger

Again, keep in mind that the more active your child is, the more thirsty they will likely be. But if you start to see a spike in the amount your child drinks or how often they ask for a drink or complain of being thirsty, you may want to take your child to the doctor to be tested for diabetes.

Increased hunger can also be a result of diabetes, and the way to tell it apart from a growth spurt is if it accompanies weight loss rather than weight gain.

How to detect diabetes symptoms

Extra trips to the bathroom and bedwetting

Along with drinking more water comes extra bathroom breaks. If you notice your child using the bathroom or wetting the bed more, or if your child or his or her teacher brings it up, it may be a cause for concern. Start paying more careful attention to how much and what your child drinks and how often they use the bathroom. Ask your child if these habits feel abnormal to them.

Abnormal weakness and fatigue

It’s normal to be tired if you haven’t had enough sleep or for various other reasons. It can also be hard to see the difference between boredom and fatigue in your child. But if your child is getting enough sleep and doesn’t seem to be interested in their normal activities or sleeps more in general, it may be time to start worrying about diabetes or some other health issue. If the symptom persists, see a doctor about it.

How to detect diabetes symptoms

Reduced blood pressure

One of the things you can have your doctor check if you’re concerned about diabetes is blood pressure. If your child’s blood pressure is below 90/60, ask your doctor to run blood tests to check for diabetes.

Check out 6 more signs and symptoms of diabetes in your child on the next page.

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Diabetes is a chronic condition diagnosed by abnormally high blood sugar levels. Doctors will administer a blood test to measure blood sugar levels — there’s no true way to know whether or not you have diabetes without this blood test.

However, some people who have diabetes also experience key symptoms and early warning signs, such as frequent urination, increased thirst, and excessive hunger.

These warning signs are similar for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, though how they present can vary. Here’s what you need to know to spot the symptoms of both types of diabetes.

How to recognize the early signs of diabetes

The early signs of diabetes are referred to as the 3 Ps. According to Orville Kolterman, MD, chief medical officer at Pendulum, a company that makes products to help control glucose levels, these include the following:

Because type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin at all, they often show more dramatic symptoms when compared with type 2 diabetics.

“Usually type 1 is a very rapid deterioration with severe symptoms, landing you in the hospital for a diagnosis,” says Stephanie Redmond, a doctor of pharmacy and co-founder of Diabetes Doctor Supplements. “With type 2 diabetes , the pancreas can still create insulin, it just doesn’t work as well as it should… so we see less drastic symptoms for type 2 diagnosis.”

Here’s how to determine these 3 early symptoms of diabetes, and why they occur.

Excessive hunger

You may experience excessive hunger because your body is no longer producing or using insulin properly. Insulin is the hormone that helps your body break down sugars from the food you eat and convert it into energy. But when insulin isn’t available or isn’t functioning properly within the body, you don’t get that energy from the food you eat.

This can cause your body to feel hungry, even when you’ve eaten. Excessive hunger is an important early warning sign, because it can indicate insulin resistance or high insulin levels even before you’d be able to notice other symptoms.

“Insulin resistance and high insulin levels develop before high blood sugars, so it’s a great spot to make some changes early on,” Redmond says.

Frequent urination

When blood sugar levels are elevated, the kidneys begin to dump that sugar into your urine, Kolterman says. In turn, this pulls extra water from the body into the urine, filling your bladder faster, causing the need to urinate more frequently.

If you find yourself urinating more frequently, especially if it reaches double your norm, that’s cause for concern, Redmond says. You might even notice some other telling signs because of the amount of sugar in their urine.

“I had a man tell me he found ants eating his urine around his toilet because his urine was so sweet,” Redmond says. “Or we have patients describing a distinct sugary smell when they urinate.”

Increased thirst

You might also find yourself increasingly thirsty because you’re urinating so often. Many people with diabetes drink more to deal with the thirst. If you’re not drinking enough to quench your thirst — or are drinking sugary beverages that make your frequent urination worse — you might experience additional symptoms of dehydration, including dry mouth or blurred vision.

These symptoms can indicate that your diabetes has progressed and is beginning to affect the rest of your body. “Dry mouth or blurry vision usually mean glucose levels are really high already,” Redmond says.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms

Most people with type 1 diabetes — who can’t produce insulin on their own — are diagnosed after being hospitalized with severe symptoms, Redmond says. In addition to frequent urination and excessive thirst or hunger, other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss, even if you’re eating more

Because the body doesn’t make any insulin, there are no carbs or sugar that the body can use for energy,” Redmond says. “So it starts to burn fat for energy, hence, part of the weight loss .”

People with untreated type 1 diabetes can also experience diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA). As the body burns fat in an attempt to fuel itself, it releases ketones, which are chemicals in your blood that can be harmful if they’re released in excess.

Without treatment, DKA can lead to serious health complications like a coma. If you experience vomiting, confusion, or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms

Most people with type 2 diabetes — who can’t use insulin properly — are diagnosed after showing elevated blood sugar levels during routine blood work.

“Oftentimes, they will be at the doctor for something else, and they randomly will see a blood test with a high blood sugar,” Redmond says.

However, the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are excessive hunger or fatigue, Redmond says. Although these present early and can be difficult to detect, they also present at a time when type 2 diabetes can be reversed through lifestyle changes.

Other symptoms are a sign that type 2 diabetes has already progressed. These can include:

  • Yeast infections. Excess blood sugar that is dumped through urine feeds yeast, which can cause a yeast infection, or the growth of excess yeast around the genitals. Symptoms of yeast infections include itching and redness on the vulva or penis, as well as discharge and swelling. This may also occur with type 1 diabetes.
  • Pain or numbness. High sugars can damage blood vessels leading towards nerve endings, which may cause nerve damage, commonly beginning in the feet.

Insider’s takeaway

The only way to know for sure whether you have diabetes is to get a blood test from your doctor. While some people will notice early warning signs, these can be difficult to detect, especially for type 2 diabetes. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s best to seek medical attention.

“The symptoms listed above can also be signs of other issues including kidney, prostate, cancer, or eye diseases,” Redmond says. “So while you should be mindful of these symptoms as a possible sign of diabetes, that needs to be evaluated by your doctor to rule out other causes.”

Diabetes is becoming a very common disease. It starts when a person’s blood sugar levels rise above normal. It is a disease whose symptoms are “silent” and so it must be discovered out at an early stage. Only timely detection of diabetes symptoms will help in control the symptoms from getting out of hand. There are millions of diabetics and many more people are at risk of becoming diabetic. Every one should learn how to identify diabetes symptoms in time.

Types of Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms can vary according to the type of diabetes afflicting a person. The two main types of diabetes are diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2 and there is a third type that is known as gestational diabetes. It is a good idea to find out more on how to identify diabetes type 1 symptoms and diabetes type 2 symptoms. All diabetes symptoms are not the same and will in fact vary depending on the root cause of the problem.

The pancreas in the body needs to produce sufficient amounts of a hormone called insulin that helps to keep blood glucose levels in check. If the body’s autoimmune system causes destruction of its insulin supply, this will cause diabetes symptoms known as type1 diabetes.

If on the other hand, the body is able to produce sufficient insulin but the insulin is ineffective in controlling blood sugar levels then the diabetes symptoms in this case would be referred to as type 2 diabetes.

Diabetics tend to display certain diabetes symptoms which show that they have a diabetes problem. To identify whether a person is indeed showing diabetes symptoms, doctors often conduct certain tests including a blood test which will immediately reveal whether the person is diabetic or not.

Detect Diabetes Symptoms

Keeping a check on the frequency and quantity of urine passed by a person on a daily basis is another way that a person can identify whether they are suffering from diabetes. If urination is frequent and excessive, it would indicate the presence of diabetes symptoms.

Weight change – either gain or loss – can also help a person identify diabetes symptoms. Weight problems occur in diabetics because they have either too much or too little sugar in their blood. A diabetic’s body is more at risk of easily coming down with infections. Also, if a person cuts themselves and the wound takes an inordinately long time to heal; then this could also be a sign that the person is diabetic.

Mild to Severe Diabetes Symptoms

Another way of identifying diabetes symptoms is by looking out for signs of extreme exhaustion/fatigue and blurry vision. These two signs often indicate that a person is a diabetic. Diabetes symptoms can range from mild to severe and their intensity can and does change according to certain factors. Also, no two diabetics are going to show the same diabetes symptoms.

A person whose family members are or were diabetic can also be at risk of developing diabetes symptoms. Thus, if their family history shows that someone was a diabetic then they must be alert to the possibility that they themselves may also be affected by diabetes symptoms.

In this Article

  • How Are Diabetes and Prediabetes Diagnosed?
  • Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Test
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
  • Random Plasma Glucose Test

How Are Diabetes and Prediabetes Diagnosed?

The following tests are used for the diagnosis of diabetes:

  • A fastingplasma glucose test measures your blood glucose after you have gone at least 8 hours without eating. This test is used to detect diabetes or prediabetes.
  • An oral glucose tolerance testВ measures your blood sugar after you have gone at least eight hours without eating and two hours after you drink a glucose-containing beverage. This test can be used to diagnose diabetes or prediabetes.
  • In a random plasma glucose test, your doctor checks your blood sugar without regard to when you ate your last meal. This test, along with an assessment of symptoms, is used to diagnose diabetes, but not prediabetes.

A hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test can be done without fasting, and can be used to diagnose or confirm either prediabetes or diabetes.

Positive test results should be confirmed by repeating the fasting plasma glucose test or the oral glucose tolerance test on a different day. When first diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor may suggest a zinc transporter 8 autoantibody (ZnT8Ab) test. This blood test — along with other information and test results — can help determine if a person has type 1 diabetes and not another type. The goal of having the ZnT8Ab test is a prompt and accurate diagnosis and that can lead to timely treatment.

Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Test

The FPG is most reliable when done in the morning. Results and their meaning are shown in table 1. If your fasting glucose level is 100 to 125 mg/dL, you have a form of prediabetes called impaired fasting glucose (IFG), meaning that you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes but do not have it yet. A level of 126 mg/dL or above, confirmed by repeating the test on another day, means that you have diabetes.

Table 1. Fasting Plasma Glucose Test

Plasma Glucose Result (mg/dL) Diagnosis
99 and below Normal
100 to 125 Prediabetes
(impaired fasting glucose)
126 and above Diabetes*

*Confirmed by repeating the test on a different day.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

Research has shown that the OGTT is more sensitive than the FPG test for diagnosing prediabetes, but it is less convenient to administer. The OGTT requires you to fast for at least eight hours before the test. Your plasma glucose is measured immediately before and two hours after you drink a liquid containing 75 grams of glucose dissolved in water. Results and what they mean are shown in table 2. If your blood sugar level is between 140 and 199 mg/dL 2 hours after drinking the liquid, you have a form of prediabetes called impaired glucose tolerance or IGT, meaning that you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes but do not have it yet. A two-hour glucose level of 200 mg/dL or above, confirmed by repeating the test on another day, means that you have diabetes.

Table 2. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

2-Hour Plasma Glucose Result (mg/dL) Diagnosis
139 and below Normal
140 to 199 Prediabetes
(impaired glucose tolerance)
200 and above Diabetes*

*Confirmed by repeating the test on a different day.

Gestational diabetes is also diagnosed based on plasma glucose values measured during the OGTT. Blood sugar levels are checked four times during the test. If your blood sugar levels are above normal at least twice during the test, you have gestational diabetes. Table 3 shows the above-normal results for the OGTT for gestational diabetes.

Table 3. Gestational Diabetes: Above-Normal Results for the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

When Plasma Glucose Result (mg/dL)
Fasting 95 or higher
At 1 hour 180 or higher
At 2 hours 155 or higher
At 3 hours 140 or higher

Note: Some laboratories use other numbers for this test.

For additional information about the diagnosis and treatment of gestational diabetes, see the NIDDK booklet What I Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes.

Random Plasma Glucose Test

A random blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or more, plus presence of the following symptoms, can mean that you have diabetes:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss

Other symptoms include fatigue, blurred vision, increased hunger, and sores that do not heal. Your doctor will check your blood glucose level on another day using the FPG or the OGTT to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

Newer guidelines use hemoglobin A1c as a screening tool or diagnostic test for prediabetes or diabetes (the test is normally used to measure blood glucose control in diabetes patients over several months). An HbA1c of 5.7% to 6.4% is consistent with prediabetes and marks a time when it can be reversed by lifestyle changes. An HbA1c of 6.5% or higher is consistent with diabetes.

Show Sources

SOURCES: American Diabetes Association. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health.В News release, FDA.