Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be mild and difficult to recognize, if they occur. It’s easier to spot them if you know what to look for.
A yearly physical, which usually includes a fasting blood sugar test, is a great first-line screening for type 2 diabetes, even if you think your blood sugar is healthy. If your doctor finds that your levels are high, they will assess your A1C, which is an average of your blood sugar levels over two or three months. That said, depending on your family history, age, and general health, your doctor may decide to include an A1C test in your annual checkup.
To stay in full control of your metabolic health, you need to listen to what your body is telling you. Because type 2 diabetes affects every cell in the body, it can cause a wide range of symptoms. No two people with type 2 diabetes experience this disease in exactly the same way, and the number of symptoms, as well as their severity, fluctuate from person to person. Most symptoms of type 2 diabetes appear and progress gradually.
1 Frequent urination may be linked to diabetes
When there is excess glucose in the blood, as is the case with type 2 diabetes, the kidneys are unable to fully process it and must pass some of the blood through the urine. This results in increased production of urine and increased frequency and urgency of urination, called polyuria. Some people may notice that they have to get up every two hours during the night to urinate and produce more urine when they do. The presence of excess glucose can also cause urine to smell sweet. This phenomenon is more common in advanced cases of type 2 diabetes.
2 Increased thirst or dry mouth may signal diabetes
Excessive thirst, or polydipsia, is another major symptom of type 2 diabetes. After all, increased urination can lead to dehydration. In an attempt to remedy the situation, the body uses thirst to trick you into rehydrating. What’s more, a study published in August 2017 in PLoS One found that people with type 2 diabetes may produce less saliva, exacerbating the feeling of dry mouth, or xerostomia.
3 Uncontrolled diabetes can trigger unexpected weight loss
In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells do not receive enough glucose to produce energy. As a result, the body may turn to breaking down its fat stores for energy. According to research, severe, unintended weight loss is more common when type 2 diabetes goes undetected for a long time. Increased urination can also contribute to weight loss. For example, if you urinate high levels of glucose due to uncontrolled diabetes, you are literally flushing calories down the toilet. Dehydration involves a significant loss of water weight.
4 Being hungry all the time can also be a symptom of diabetes
In people with type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to use insulin properly to help glucose enter cells. As a result, the body’s cells may lack the energy they need to function properly. In an attempt to provide the cells with the energy they need, the body increases the feeling of hunger. Excessive hunger, or polyphagia, is a common sign of diabetes. It’s not the same as just wanting to eat. Polyphagia occurs when you have an appetite even after eating a sufficient amount of food.
5 Foot pain and numbness can be signs of diabetic neuropathy
Over time, prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can damage nerves throughout the body, which is called diabetic neuropathy. Some people may have no symptoms of this condition, while others may notice numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities. Diabetic neuropathy usually starts in the feet and then progresses upwards. Although it is more common in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 25 years or more, it can also occur in people with prediabetes. When it affects nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, it is called peripheral neuropathy.
Numbness in the feet can increase their risk of infection. If you don’t feel a cut or scrape on your foot, you may not notice it or treat it properly.
6 Frequent urinary tract and yeast infections can be a sign of diabetes
Bacteria and yeast multiply faster when blood sugar levels are high. Excess glucose in the urine can therefore cause urinary tract infections. Also, these germs thrive in warm, moist environments, such as the genital areas. This increases the frequency and severity of yeast infections, especially in women.
7 Blurred vision could be the result of rapid blood sugar changes
Blurred vision can occur with rapid changes in blood sugar, from low to high or from high to low, and the eye muscles have not yet adapted to it. The lens of the eye is a flexible membrane suspended by muscles that change the shape of the lens to focus the eye. In an environment high in sugar, as with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, the lens loses some of its ability to bend and the eye muscles have to work harder to focus. The good news: If caught early, diabetes-related vision changes can return to normal after about six weeks of healthy blood sugar levels. If caught in time, vision can take about six weeks to return to normal.
8 Oral health problems can be a sign of diabetes
Declining oral health is another symptom of type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar can increase the risk of gingivitis, periodontal disease, and inflammation of the mouth. Any mouth sores may also be slow to heal. In fact, in a study published in May 2019 in the journal Medicine, researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of thick or yellow tongue, as well as blue-tinged tongues. The researchers note that tongue assessment is a traditional Chinese practice for diagnosing type 2 diabetes.