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Signs and Symptoms of Early Diabetes

A Detailed List to Help Catch Type 2 Diabetes Early

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Updated April 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Signs and symptoms of early diabetes are easy to disregard because they may seem harmless and get brushed off as nothing serious. Damage can start years before symptoms become noticeable. This is unfortunate because awareness of early symptoms can help you get the disease under control sooner and prevent damage. Type 2 diabetes is a serious force to reckon with but there are concrete actions that can be taken to control it.

Sometimes people with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes present with no symptoms. However, it is possible the patient has experienced symptoms, but they were mild or developed gradually and went unnoticed. It is important to pay attention to your body and ask yourself if you have had any of the following symptoms. Even pre-diabetes can increase the risk for heart disease so the sooner action is taken the better.

"Classic" Early Diabetes Symptoms

The "classic" early diabetes symptoms are frequent urination, thirst, increased hunger, fatigue, and weight loss. We are all different and symptoms may vary or be hard to spot. Below are some detailed diabetes symptoms to look for.

Detailed Signs and Symptoms of Early Diabetes

Increased Hunger

When you have type 2 diabetes, cells become resistant to the hormone insulin. Insulin helps sugar (glucose) to get transported into cells to be used for energy. The cells become starved for glucose and hunger increases. You may feel extreme hunger even after eating.

Increased Urination and Thirst

Increased levels of sugar in the bloodstream cause the kidneys to attempt to filter out sugar and return it to the bloodstream. The kidneys may not be able to keep up with the increased load, so excess sugar is dumped into the urine. Bodily fluids are drawn from tissues to help excrete the sugar from the body. Urination increases causing dehydration and thirst. This leads to drinking more fluids which therefore increases urination. These are classic diabetes symptoms.

Dry Mouth

This symptom is due to dehydration as described above.

"Fruity" Breath

The preferred source for energy in cells is sugar. Because insulin does not function properly and cannot escort sugar into the cells to be used for energy, the body switches to using fat for energy. Ketones are a byproduct of burning fat for energy and acetone, a type of ketone, has a tell-tale fruity scent that is similar to the scent of nail polish remover.

Blurry Vision

High blood sugar can cause changes to the lenses of the eyes. The lenses may become distorted and can lose flexibility, making it harder for them to focus. Over time, this can cause damage to your eyes and lead to changes in vision and even blindness. Over time, diabetes can cause other changes to the eyes which may result in cloudy vision, double vision, floaters, shadows, cataracts, vision changes, and bleeding.

Fatigue

There are many diabetes-related causes for fatigue but dehydration can contribute to fatigue. The inability to use sugar properly and efficiently for energy needs can also cause fatigue.

Irritability

This symptom may be caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels and the body's struggle to maintain normal levels as these can affect mood.

Headaches

Diabetes can affect various bodily systems that can create conditions that cause headaches. These conditions include high blood sugar, eye problems, high blood pressure, and neuropathy.

Itching

Let your doctor know if you have had itchy skin. Itching can be due to infection, dryness, or poor blood circulation. Itching in the genital area is common with high blood sugar levels. The lower part of the legs is another common area for itching and can be a sign of early diabetes.

Unusual Weight Changes

People with type 2 diabetes typically do not lose as much weight as those with type 1 diabetes. However, if you have been hungry and eating yet have lost weight without trying you should alert your doctor. Alternatively, let your doctor know if you have had recent weight gain.

Frequent Infections

Frequent infections such as frequent and persistent yeast infections in women, skin infections, urinary infections, or gum and mouth infections are diabetes symptoms that may be due to high blood sugar levels. High levels can cause damage to the circulatory and nervous systems.

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