Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

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Diabetes is a fairly common condition and it affects people across all ages across different parts of the world [1]. While the symptoms associated with diabetes vary quite a lot across the different types of the disorder, there are a few symptoms which are common across all the types of diabetes and equally in men, women and children. These symptoms include the following:

  • Excessive urination – Also known as polyuria, this is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes where the person feels an urge to urinate several times in a day being more than 2.5 liters per day. This is because the body tries to eliminate the excess glucose through urine.
  • Increased thirst – Polydipsia or excessive thirst is another common symptom of diabetes mellitus which is induced due to loss of fluids from the body and it may even lead to dehydration if not fulfilled.
  • Increased hunger – Also known as polyphagia is found in diabetic patients as the body cells do not get sufficient calories for routine activities due to accumulation of glucose in blood and inability of glucose to enter these.
  • Fatigue or increased tiredness due to insufficient calorie production and the body cells being unable to effectively absorb sugar from the blood stream even though there is enough present.
  • Slow healing of wounds is another important feature that is seen exclusively in diabetic patients. This happens because the cells are unable to actively use energy in order to help the skin tissues to heal.
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation in limbs – When a person feels loss of sensation in his/her hands or feet as the blood circulation are reduced due to accumulation of high level of glucose in bloodstream. This can be mild to pretty severe.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss – Any unexpected weight loss, even when eating quite a lot of food is a common symptom of the body not being effectively able to absorb sugar and is a symptom of some type of diabetes.
  • Higher risk to infections – A diabetic person is more prone to an infectious disease as compared to a normal person due to lower blood circulation and immunity. An example of this is yeast infection and also infections happening in the feet and the gums.
  • Miscellaneous – Some of the other symptoms of diabetes includes blurring of vision, itchiness of the skin, weight loss, irritability and a lack of interest, fruity odor in breath and a loss of concentration while working or studying.

Besides these symptoms, there are also certain age and sex specific symptoms associated with the different types of diabetes.

Diabetes signs

Diabetes in Men

Type I Diabetes symptoms in men include [3]:

  • Erectile dysfunction might be found in males with Type I Diabetes
  • Fatigue and weakness that may be accompanied with nausea, persistent headaches, and vomiting

Type II Diabetes symptoms in men include:

  • Impotency
  • The skin may show velvety patches or dark spots
  • There may be itchy feeling around genitals
  • Weight gain that could be sudden

Diabetes in men

Some of the symptoms that are common to any type of diabetes in men include the following:

  • Erectile dysfunction is often associated with any type of undiagnosed diabetes mellitus in men. This is usually caused by damage being done to the blood vessels which carry blood to the penis due to the presence of excess sugar in the blood stream. Erectile dysfunction refers to a condition in which men are not able to achieve or to sustain an erection.
  • Sudden loss of muscle mass which also leads to reduced strength in males is associated with diabetes mellitus. This happens when the body is unable to effectively use the sugar in the blood for energy and resorts to breaking down of fatty tissues and muscle mass for obtaining energy. While this is more commonly associated with Type I Diabetes, unexplained and sudden loss of muscle mass in men also occurs during Type II Diabetes.
  • Appearance of thrush in and around the genitals which occurs on a recurring basis. This is caused due to infection by yeast and also involves a lot of blood sugar being excreted alongside urine. This condition is also characterized by redness, itching and swelling of the head of the penis, an unpleasant odor emanating from the penis, the appearance of curd-like white substance on the skin surface and extreme soreness of the skin on the penis during sexual intercourse. Itching of the skin, especially around and on the surface of the penis is also common when there is an appearance of genital thrush.

Diabetes in Women

Type I Diabetes symptoms in women include:

  • Sudden weight loss even despite of increased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Vaginal yeast infection

Diabetic woman

Type II Diabetes symptoms in women include:

  • A condition known as Acanthosis Nigricans or the appearance of dark patches on the skin
  • Dry and scaly skin which may also exhibit itching
  • Fungal infection especially in the vaginal region
  • Certain psychological effects such as irritability, agitation, nervousness
  • Sexual dysfunction or discomfort as well as pain during sexual intercourse
  • Urinary tract infection

Some of the symptoms of diabetes which are common to women across different types of the disorder include the following [5]:

  • Vaginal thrush and yeast infections are common across different types of diabetes. This is also associated with an excess of glucose being discharged with the urine. Vaginal thrush and yeast infections are characterized by soreness, reddening and a white appearance on the surface of the vaginal skin and also involve itching around the vaginal area. Sometimes, a white fluid may be discharged from the vagina and intense pain is felt during intercourse. The high concentration of sugar in the blood also decreases the lubrication of the vaginal canal. Sometimes, yeast infections may also be oral.
  • Sexual dysfunction in females is also typically associated with different forms of diabetes. This can include a general lack of libido, a difficulty in feeling aroused and inability to reach an orgasm. The high blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage to the genital area and this is often the cause of sexual dysfunction in females.

Gestational diabetes during pregnancy

In women who become pregnant after 35 years of age, there might be various pregnancy related complications where the increased glucose levels in blood may enter the fetus through placenta and may cause large size of baby that may lead to complications during delivery, including the need of a C-Section surgery.

Gestational Diabetes


The symptoms of Gestational Diabetes cannot be easily determined and as such, screening methods are used to check whether the blood sugar levels are in the normal range. Pregnant women will need to have frequent medical check-ups, especially during the third trimester of pregnancy. Women will need to avail the services of an endocrinologist, an educator for diabetes and also a dietician in order to understand the symptoms of the disorder and also all of its associated complications.

Some of the known risk factors of Gestational Diabetes include:

  • Women who are overweight or obese during the onset of pregnancy, especially those with a BMI greater than 30
  • Women who have had a history of Gestational Diabetes in the family or in the past
  • Women who are Hispanic, Black, Native American or Asian American are more prone to developing Gestational Diabetes although the cause for this is unclear

Diabetes in Children

Type I Diabetes symptoms in children include:

  • Irritability and other psychological effects such as being moody and hypertensive
  • Lack of concentration and blurring of the vision
  • Bedwetting on an irregular basis
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Extreme hunger, increased thirst and the frequent need to urinate
  • Female children may exhibit yeast infections around the genital area and female infants may also develop rashes caused by the diapers

Type 1 Diabetes

The risk factors which may lead children to develop Type I Diabetes include the following:

  • Viral infections by some specific pathogens which destroy the functioning of the beta cells of the pancreas.
  • A low level of Vitamin D being available to a child after childbirth increases the chances of developing Type I Diabetes.
  • Dietary factors such as the early introduction of cow’s milk and also cereal to a baby’s diet make the child much more prone to developing Type I Diabetes.

Type II Diabetes symptoms in children include:

  • Dry mouth also known as Xerostomia
  • Darkening of skin and the formation of patches
  • Itching and redness on the skin surface
  • An unexplained loss in mass and weight
  • Extreme thirst and hunger felt even right after eating and drinking
  • Difficulty in breathing and heaviness of the breath
  • Extremely slow healing of cuts and sores

The risk factors of Type II Diabetes in children include the following:

  • A BMI above 85% can lead to children developing Type II Diabetes.
  • Any sibling, parent or relative having Type II Diabetes.
  • Children of particular races including Native American, Hispanic, Asian American and also Pacific Islander are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
  • Children who exhibit signs of resistance to insulin such as the appearance of darkened skin around the armpits and the neck is considered to be e risk factor to Type II Diabetes in children.
Understanding signs and symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes Complications

If the symptoms of diabetes mellitus are not taken care of, they might exaggerate and lead to following complications [4]:

  • Damage to the body: High blood glucose levels may damage the small blood vessels and nerves of the body leading to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries that can further lead to heart attack and stroke. There is a greater risk to becoming more susceptible to various infections, skin ulcerations and gangrene in limbs due to poor blood circulation. This may also result in the need for amputation of limbs.
  • There is an increased chance of encountering cardiovascular diseases if the signs and symptoms of diabetes are left uncontrolled. These include various coronary artery diseases, heart diseases, heart attacks, stroke and also excessive pain in the chest or angina.
  • The increased level of sugar in the blood results in an increase in urinating frequency, causing dehydration of the body. It leads to a dryness and foul odor originating in the mouth.
  • Diabetic coma: If a person with Type II Diabetes is severely dehydrated and is not able to make up for the fluid losses may lead to a reversible form of coma which is of three types; diabetic hypoglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis ( a combination of hyperglycemia, dehydration and shock) and hyperosmolar non-ketotic diabetic coma.
  • Retinopathy: Increased blood sugar levels may damage the nerves and blood vessels of eyes leading to retinopathy. Thus it is important to control blood sugar level as well as blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent eye diseases. Severe diabetes may also lead to loss of eyesight.
  • Complications in diabetes also lead to diseases being developed in the foot. This occurs due to nerve damage and is typically characterized by infections, cuts and blisters being developed on the feet, which, if ignored can lead to serious conditions even requiring amputation.
  • Diabetic people are also more prone to damage their hearing as the nerve and blood vessels may tend to get damaged.
  • Type II Diabetes is also associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Bacterial and fungal infections of the skin are extremely common if diabetes is left untreated.
  • Complications involved with Gestational Diabetes can lead to both the mother and the child developing prediabetes or Type II Diabetes later in the future. Unattended Gestational Diabetes can also lead to serious conditions such as preeclampsia and may cause death of both the mother and the child. A mother who has suffered an episode of Gestational Diabetes is also more prone to developing the condition again with subsequent pregnancies.

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic and common disorder which affects many people all over the world. If the signs and symptoms of the disease are ignored and the warning signs are left unattended, diabetes can result in a range of other associated complications which can even lead to death in severe cases.



[1] Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathic Pain: Clinical and Quality-of-Life Issues, Charles E. Argoff, MDa, B. Eliot Cole, MD, MPAb, , , David A. Fishbain, MD, FAPA (Distinguished)c, Gordon A. Irving, MBBS, FFA (SA), MMed, MScd; Volume 81, Issue 4, Supplement, Pages S3-S11 – April 2006 – DOI: 10.1016/S0025-6196(11)61474-2,

[2] Role of diabetes in congestive heart failure: The Framingham study, William B. Kannel, MD, FACC,1, 2, Marthana Hjortland, PhD1, 2, , William P. Castelli, MD1, 2,; Volume 34, Issue 1, Pages 29-34, – July 1974 – DOI: 1016/0002-9149(74)90089-7 ,

[3] Diet and risk of clinical diabetes in women, G A Colditz, J E Manson, M J Stampfer, B Rosner, W C Willett, and F E Speizer; 55no. 5 1018-1023 – May 1992,

[4] Pregnancy complications and outcomes among overweight and obese nulliparous women, Mark B. Landon, M.D., Catherine Y. Spong, M.D., Elizabeth Thom, Ph.D., Marshall W. Carpenter,; v.91(3); 436–440 – Mar 2001,

[5] A Multicenter, Randomized Trial of Treatment for Mild Gestational Diabetes, M.D., Susan M. Ramin, M.D., Brian Casey, M.D., Ronald J. Wapner, M.D., Michael W. Varner, M.D., Dwight J. Rouse, M.D; Vol. 94, No. 9, pp. 1549-1554 – September 2004 – DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.94.9.1549,

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