What are the Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes?

Authored by The Rx Advocates, / Medically Reviewed by Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS


It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of diabetes, especially for someone who is at risk for this condition. There are different types of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2, and gestational) and there are also signs that indicate that a person could be developing it.

Diabetes is a serious medical condition, but it is treatable through diet, exercise, and getting the right medication and medical treatment. The signs and symptoms of diabetes should never be ignored.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, refers to a group of diseases that impact how the body uses glucose, or blood sugar. Glucose is essential because it fuels the brain as well as the muscles and tissues in the body. 

As we mentioned earlier, there are three main types of diabetes. But many people experience prediabetes, which is an indicator that they may need medical treatment in order to avoid becoming a diabetic. 

Regardless of what type of diabetes a person has, it can mean excessive sugar in a person’s blood. This can lead to serious health issues, so it is important to identify the symptoms and get medical help right away. 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes was once known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes. When a person has this condition, their pancreas produces very little or no insulin to balance their blood sugar. Insulin is critical because it allows glucose to enter the body’s cells, which in turn, produces energy. 

Typically, type 1 diabetes will appear during childhood or adolescence, but that is not a hard and fast rule. People can develop this condition at any age. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. But it is a treatable condition. Patients are encouraged to manage their blood sugar levels by taking insulin and making diet and lifestyle changes. They may need to check their blood sugar often and take insulin on a regular schedule to keep it under control.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?

The signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes may begin very suddenly. Although, in some people, the onset is slower, and their symptoms may more closely mimic those of people with type 2 diabetes. 

The most common signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes include: 

  • Needing to urinate often. 
  • Feeling extremely fatigued.
  • Having bruises or cuts that take a long time to heal. 
  • Feeling excessively thirsty. 
  • Feeling excessively hungry, even when the person is regularly eating. 
  • Losing weight, even though the person is eating more. 

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Some people receive a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes following a viral illness or infection. It can be hard to diagnose, and at times, patients may reach the point of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) prior to being diagnosed. 

When a person has DKA, their blood sugar is extremely high to the point of being dangerous. At that point, the body can’t get glucose into the cells because there is no insulin available to help that process along. As a result, the body will begin to break down muscle and fat in order to get energy.

DKA is very dangerous if it is left untreated. It can lead to unconsciousness, stupor, and even death if treatment is not sought immediately. 

Type 2 Diabetes

According to the CDC, 90-95% of people who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2. It usually occurs in people who are aged 45 or older, but it can develop in young people as well. 

In people with type 2 diabetes, the cells in their bodies do not respond to insulin normally. When this occurs, it is called insulin resistance. The pancreas attempts to compensate for this by producing excessive amounts of insulin to get the cells to respond. But in time, the pancreas cannot keep up, and as a result, the person’s blood sugar rises. 

High blood sugar can lead to many medical and health issues, including loss of vision, kidney disease, and heart disease. 

Type 2 diabetes can be managed in several ways, and the treatment that is prescribed is typically very personalized. Some people do well by becoming more active or by eating a healthier diet. People with this condition may need to check their blood sugar regularly, take insulin, or take other medications as recommended by their doctors. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes? 

It is common for some type 1 and type 2 diabetes symptoms to overlap each other. But a person may be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes if they have any of the following: 

  • Frequently feeling thirsty. 
  • Frequently feeling hungry, even if they are eating normally or even more than usual. 
  • Having sores that take a long time to heal. 
  • Feeling really tired. 
  • Having blurry vision. 
  • Losing weight without trying to. 
  • Having more infections than normal. 
  • Having numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. 
  • Having very dry skin. 

Gestational Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association states that close to 10% of women in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes every year. There is no known cause for this, and it is completely unrelated to whether the mother had diabetes before getting pregnant. 

A woman’s hormones are responsible for supporting the placenta as it grows when she is pregnant. But those same hormones can also have an effect on insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance. In cases like these, it becomes difficult for the mother’s body to use the insulin it makes. 

If the body does not have enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be used as energy. Instead, it builds up in the blood, and this is called hyperglycemia. 

Doctors will carefully monitor the pregnancy and may recommend a certain diet or more exercise in order to keep both mom and her baby healthy. In most cases, there are no lingering health issues for the new mother or her child. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes?

In most cases, gestational diabetes does not cause any particular signs or symptoms. Most expectant mothers are surprised to learn that they have it when they are diagnosed. They may notice that they feel thirsty more often than normal and that they need to urinate more. But those symptoms are usually connected to the pregnancy.

What Medications are Used to Treat Diabetes? 

There are several medications that are used to treat diabetes. They include insulins, such as: 

People with type 2 diabetes may be prescribed any of the following medications: 

Get Help Paying for Your Diabetes Medications Through The Rx Advocates

At The Rx Advocates, we offer financial assistance to people who cannot afford their monthly medications. If you take insulin or another medication to treat diabetes, you may have noticed how costly these drugs can be. Our program can help. 

Diabetes is a serious health condition that should never be ignored. Contact us today to learn how you can get help covering the cost of your diabetes medications.

Mayo Clinic. Diabetes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444. October 30, 2020. 

Mayo Clinic. Type 1 diabetes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353011. March 27, 2021. 

American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Symptoms. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-1/symptoms

American Diabetes Association. DKA (Ketoacidosis) & Ketones. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/complications/dka-ketoacidosis-ketones

CDC. Type 2 Diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html. August 10, 2021. 

CDC. Diabetes Symptoms. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/symptoms.html. April 27, 2021. 

American Diabetes Association. Gestational diabetes and a healthy baby? Yes. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/gestational-diabetes

Humulin.com. Other Available Humulin Insulins. https://www.humulin.com/insulin-options

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