Symptoms of Diabetes to Watch Out For

Type 2 diabetes usually develops gradually over many years, and the initial symptoms may be almost unnoticeable. In fact, many people find out that they have type 2 diabetes when a routine laboratory test shows high blood glucose levels.

As glucose levels continue to increase, most people develop the classic initial symptoms:

• Increased frequency of urination;

• Increased thirst and fluid intake.; and, in later stages

• Weight loss despite increased hunger and food intake.

Fortunately, these symptoms go away once blood glucose levels are brought under control. Other common symptoms include blurred vision (due to changing levels of glucose in the eye), weakness and fatigue, recurrent vaginal yeast infections, and infections of the skin and gums. Fortunately, these symptoms can be eliminated by controlling blood glucose levels.

In some people, complications of diabetes such as peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage in the hands or feet) or coronary heart disease are the first indication of diabetes. These complications can be controlled but cannot be cured.

Another possible initial symptom of diabetes is hyperosmolar hyperglycemic (nonketotic) syndrome. This occurs when the stress of an injury or major illness, such as a stroke, heart attack, or severe infection, causes extremely high blood glucose levels (above 600 mg/dL). Although insulin levels are adequate to avert full-blown ketoacidosis (as occurs in type 1 diabetes), the insulin levels are not high enough to prevent high blood glucose and hyperosmolarity (literally, thickening of the blood), a condition in which the blood has high concentrations of sodium, glucose, and other molecules that draw water from cells into the bloodstream.

Symptoms of hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome include a dry parched mouth, increased hunger, nausea or vomiting, and warm dry skin. Severe dehydration worsens the problem, causing lethargy, confusion and even loss of consciousness. In extreme cases, the result is a coma. Immediate treatment with large amounts of fluids, along with insulin, is vital to prevent death. If you or a loved one develops any of these symptoms, call your doctor or an ambulance immediately.

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HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into in 2018.