The following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.
Common symptoms of diabetes:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry—even though you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss—even though you are eating more (type 1)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes.
Although there are many similarities between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the cause of each is very different. And the treatment is usually quite different, too. Some people, especially adults who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, may have symptoms similar to type 2 diabetes and this overlap between types can be confusing. Take our Risk Test to find out if you are at increased risk for having type 2 diabetes.
Can symptoms appear suddenly?
In people with type 1 diabetes, the onset of symptoms can be very sudden, while in type 2 diabetes, they tend to come about more gradually, and sometimes there are no signs at all.
Symptoms sometimes occur after a viral illness. In some cases, a person may reach the point of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) before a type 1 diagnosis is made. DKA occurs when blood glucose is dangerously high and the body can't get nutrients into the cells because of the absence of insulin. The body then breaks down muscle and fat for energy, causing an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Symptoms of DKA include a fruity odor on the breath, heavy, taxed breathing and vomiting. If left untreated, DKA can result in stupor, unconsciousness, and even death.
People who have symptoms—of type 1 or of DKA—should contact their health care provider immediately for an accurate diagnosis. Keep in mind that these symptoms could signal other problems, too.
Some people with type 1 have a "honeymoon" period, a brief remission of symptoms while the pancreas is still secreting some insulin. The honeymoon phase usually occurs after someone has started taking insulin. A honeymoon can last as little as a week or even up to a year. But it’s important to know that the absence of symptoms doesn't mean the diabetes is gone. The pancreas will eventually be unable to secrete insulin, and, if untreated, the symptoms will return.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes onset in an infant or child
The young child who is urinating frequently, drinking large quantities, losing weight, and becoming more and more tired and ill is the classic picture of a child with new-onset type 1 diabetes. If a child who is potty-trained and dry at night starts having accidents and wetting the bed again, diabetes might be the culprit.
Although it is easy to make the diagnosis diabetes in a child by checking blood sugar at the doctor’s office or emergency room, the tricky part is recognizing the symptoms and knowing to take the child to get checked. Raising the awareness that young children, including infants, can get type 1 diabetes can help parents know when to check for type 1 diabetes.
Sometimes children can be in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) when they are diagnosed with diabetes. When there is a lack of insulin in the body, the body can build up high levels of an acid called ketones. DKA is a medical emergency that usually requires hospitalization and immediate care with insulin and IV fluids. After diagnosis and early in treatment, some children may go through a phase where they seem to be making enough insulin again. This is commonly called the “honeymoon phase”. It may seem like diabetes has been cured, but over time they will require appropriate doses of insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in the normal range.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes onset in adults
When an adult is diagnosed with diabetes, they are often mistakenly told that they have type 2 diabetes. This is because there is still a lack of an understanding in the medical community that type 1 diabetes can start at any age. It can also be tricky because some adults with new-onset type 1 diabetes are often not sick at first. Their doctor finds an elevated blood sugar level at a routine visit and starts them on diet, exercise and an oral medication. On the other hand, there are people who look like they have type 2 diabetes—they may be Latino or African American and/or overweight, but they have type 1 diabetes after all. This can be difficult for even the brightest doctor to diagnose.
Maybe it's a different type
If you or someone you know is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but isn’t responding well to the typical treatments for type 2 diabetes, it may be worth a visit to an endocrinologist to determine what type of diabetes is happening. Generally, this requires antibody tests and possibly the measurement of a C-peptide level.
Women with gestational diabetes often have no symptoms, which is why it's important for at-risk women to be tested at the proper time during pregnancy.
Symptoms of diabetes complications
Have you already been diagnosed with diabetes but are concerned about symptoms that may be the result of complications related to diabetes?
Find out more
Do you have questions or concerns about diabetes symptoms? Want to connect with others? Join the American Diabetes Association Community to find support.
If you've recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, enroll in the free Living With Type 2 Diabetes Program to get more information and support.