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Symptoms of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes normally manifests itself quite suddenly, and patients have abrupt-onset symptoms with ketoacidosis, but type 2 diabetes is more insidious in onset. Symptoms often go unnoticed, and people can have type 2 diabetes for many years without realising it (1).

Approximately a quarter of people with type 2 diabetes do not know they have it (2). Once diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, as many as half of our precious beta cells may already be malfunctioning due to ingestion of excessive amounts of high glycemic index foods (see Glycemic Index below), poor nutrition and being overweight or obese, and inactive (3).

The main symptoms to look out for are

  • Excessive thirst - As the body tries to get rid of excess glucose in the urine it also gets rid of large quantities of water.

  • Frequent urination - this occurs due to the body trying to flush out the excess glucose via the kidneys and extra fluids you are drinking.

  • Fatigue - this is due to a lack of energy sources being delivered to the cells in the body. Fatigue is common and may not be recognized as a symptom of diabetes.

  • Blurred vision - a result of dryness of the eyes from high blood glucose levels.

  • Losing weight - fat stores are being used up instead of glucose. Weight loss is especially a feature of type 1 diabetes, and these patients are typically not overweight.

  • Genital itching or thrush - high blood glucose increases the likelihood of infections in skin, urine, chest. As sweat, urine and body fluids are full of glucose organisms flourish. Recurrent infections are common.

  • Hunger - your body is not getting the energy it needs from food.

  • Numbness or tingling in hands and/or feet, erectile dysfunction - nerve damage occurs due to high blood glucose levels.

  • Slow wound healing - high blood glucose levels affect wound healing process.

  • Irritability and mood changes - this is due to rapid changes in blood glucose affecting the brain.

— May Meleigy


  1. International Diabetes Federation. Types of diabetes.
  2. The Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) Diabetes Prevalence Model: estimates of total diabetes prevalence for England, 2010-2030. Diabet Med. 2011 May; 28(5): 575-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2010.03216.x.
  3. Abdullah A, Peeters A, de Courten M, et al. The magnitude of association between overweight and obesity and the risk of diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Diabetes Research & Clinical Practice 2010;89 (3):309-19.