1. Frequent urination
Also known as polyuria, frequent and/or excessive urination is a sign that your blood sugar levels are high enough to “spill” into your urine.
When your kidneys can’t keep up with the amount of glucose, they allow some of it to go into your urine. This makes you have to urinate often, including during the night.
2. Extreme thirst
Extreme thirst is another common early symptom of diabetes. It’s tied to high blood sugar levels, and is exacerbated by frequent urination. Often, drinking won’t satisfy the thirst.
3. Increased hunger
Intense hunger, or polyphagia, is also an early warning sign of diabetes.
Your body uses the glucose in your blood to feed your cells. When this system is broken, your cells can’t absorb the glucose. As a result, your body is constantly looking for more fuel, causing persistent hunger.
4. Nerve pain or numbness
If you have type 2 diabetes, you might experience tingling or numbness in your hands, fingers, feet, and toes. This is a sign of nerve damage, or diabetic neuropathy.
This condition typically develops slowly. You’re likely to experience this after years of living with diabetes, but it can be a first sign for some.
5. Slow healing wounds
There are several reasons wounds will heal more slowly if you have diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels narrow your blood vessels, slowing blood circulation and restricting needed nutrients and oxygen from getting to wounds.
Prolonged, high blood sugar levels also damage your immune system, so your body has a harder time fighting infection.
6. Blurred vision
Blurred vision usually occurs early in unmanaged diabetes. It can be a result of suddenly high blood sugar levels, which affect the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, causing fluid to seep into the lens of the eye. The blurriness will usually resolve. Still, see an eye doctor right away.
With prolonged high blood sugar levels, you become at risk for more serious conditions that can lead to blindness, such as diabetic retinopathy.
7. Dark skin patches
Dark, velvety discoloration in the folds of your skin is called acanthosis nigricans. This is another early warning sign of type 2 diabetes. It’s most common in the armpits, neck, and groin regions. The skin in the affected area also becomes thickened.
This is caused by an excess of insulin in the blood. This is common in people with type 2 diabetes because insulin resistance is the main precursor to type 2 diabetes.
8. Frequent infections
Anybody can get a bacterial, fungal, or yeast infection, but people with type 2 diabetes tend to get them more often.
When your blood sugar is too high for your kidneys to filter it well, sugar ends up in the urine. This can cause urinary tract infections, as well as yeast infections. Gum and skin infections are also common.
Bacterial infections. You can often treat these at home by yourself, but you may need an antibiotic prescribed by a doctor. Common bacterial infections in people with diabetes include:
styes (in or near the eyelids)
boils on the surface of the skin, or carbuncles deeper down
infections of the hair follicles, called folliculitis
infections around the nails
Fungal infections. People with diabetes most often get the fungal infection caused by Candida albicans. This is a yeast-like fungus that causes itchy red rashes surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections are most found in warm, moist folds of skin, such as:
under the breasts
around the groin
in the vagina
around the nails
between fingers and toes
9. Itchy skin
Itchy skin is often caused by diabetes, and it’s sometimes one of the first symptoms. It can be caused by a variety of conditions related to diabetes, including:
yeast or fungal infection
poor circulation, often in the lower legs
10. Dry mouth
Dry mouth is one of the most common mouth symptoms of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD).
Doctors don’t know exactly why dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs with diabetes. They believe it’s related to high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, which is related to diabetes.
Some symptoms of dry mouth include:
mouth is continually dry
trouble chewing, swallowing, or speaking
dry, cracked lips
sores or infections in the mouth
rough, dry tongue
Extreme fatigue is one of the hallmark symptoms of diabetes. It’s sometimes called diabetes fatigue syndrome. ResearchersTrusted Source don’t know exactly why it occurs. There have been many studies about fatigue and diabetes, but none has completely pinpointed the causal connection.
The most common explanation is that diabetes-related fatigue is caused by fluctuating blood glucose levels that don’t supply enough glucose for the body to use for energy. Researchers also acknowledge the difficulty of studying the connection between diabetes and fatigue.
Many co-occurring conditions can cause fatigue, as well as lifestyle factors including:
poor sleep quality
lack of physical activity
12. Unintended weight loss
If you’re losing weight without trying to, this can be a diabetes warning sign. It can also be a sign of other conditions, so be sure to check with your doctor and get tested.
If you do have type 2 diabetes, there’s so much extra glucose circulating in your body that it goes into your urine. This may cause you to lose weight, even while you’re eating more and more to satisfy your hunger.
Researchers have found that people who experience unintended weight loss before a diabetes diagnosis are more likely to develop diabetic complications later, including diabetic retinopathy (eye disease) and diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).
Irritability or mood changes can be a sign of type 2 diabetes. There are many other medical conditions that can cause shifts in mood. So don’t assume you have diabetes if you’re suddenly feeling a little cranky.
Mood changes that are associated with type 2 diabetes usually appear with other signs of diabetes, not on their own. A growing amount of research indicates a correlation between your moods and the seesaw changes in your blood sugar that characterize diabetes.
Blood sugar highs and lows are closely related to mental health symptoms such as:
People almost always develop prediabetes before type 2 diabetes. Your blood sugar levels at the prediabetes level are high, but not yet high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. With prediabetes, you might experience some diabetes symptoms, or you might not.
If you know or believe that you’re living with prediabetes, here are the blood levels that the three main types of diabetes tests will show:
an A1C of 5.7 to 6.4 percent
fasting blood sugar of 100–125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl)
an OGTT 2-hour blood sugar of 140 mg/dl–199 mg/dl
What to do if you’re experiencing early signs of diabetes
If you think you may be experiencing any of these early signs of type 2 diabetes, it’s best to talk with your doctor right away.
The test for diabetes is often a simple blood test, and you’ll know the results fairly quickly. It’s possible that you may not actually be living with diabetes — many of the early symptoms of diabetes mimic those of other conditions.
Diabetes is a manageable condition, especially when found early. Early diagnosis and swift treatment can significantly reduce the risk of later complications.
Lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise can go a long way in managing diabetes. You may not need medication, but if you do, it’s best to start it early.