print   Print full article

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are related to high glucose levels (hyperglycaemia), temporarily low glucose levels (hypoglycaemia), and to complications associated with diabetes. The complications can be related to lipid (fat) production, to macrovascular (large blood vessel) or microvascular (small blood vessel) damage, to organ damage - for example kidney (diabetic nephropathy), nerve (diabetic neuropathy) and eye (diabetic retinopathy) and/or to the slower healing associated with diabetes. Type 1 diabetics are often diagnosed with acute severe symptoms that require hospitalisation. With early type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes there may be no symptoms.

Symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes with hyperglycaemia may include any of:

  • Increased thirst
  • Passing increasing amounts of urine
  • Increased appetite (with type 1 weight loss is also seen)
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling sick
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain (especially in children)
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing infections
  • Numbness, tingling and pain in the feet
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Absence of menstruation in women
  • Rapid breathing (acute)
  • Decreased consciousness, coma (acute)

Symptoms of impending hypoglycaemia:
Hypoglycaemia is dangerous and may cause death. Temporary hypoglycaemia in the diabetic may be caused by the accidental injection of too much insulin, not eating enough or waiting too long to eat, exercising strenuously, or by the swings in glucose levels seen in patients with diabetes which is difficult to control (often referred to as 'brittle diabetes').

Hypoglycaemia needs to be treated because if it is severe, it can rapidly progress to unconsciousness. True hypoglycaemia occurs when the blood sugar is below 2.5 mmol/L, though symptoms may develop earlier, especially if the blood sugar falls rapidly, and include:

  • Sensation of hunger
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Trembling
  • Weakness
  • Double vision
  • Convulsions (severe)
  • Coma (severe)

Last Review Date: August 1, 2018