5 Symptoms of Diabetes

Know and recognize these tell-tale signs that could help diagnose you.


By Jocelyn Hsu


Diabetes, often known as a “silent killer,” is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to be higher than normal due to issues with insulin, a hormone that manages absorption and storage of glucose. There are three common types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body's immune system incorrectly targets and damages the pancreas, causing poor to no insulin production and ultimately leading to high concentrations of glucose. On the other hand, with the more prevalent type 2 diabetes, your body might be producing enough insulin, but your cells are not responding to the insulin’s order to absorb glucose. The last type is gestational diabetes, which is similar to Type 2 diabetes but only occurs in pregnant women. 

According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 29.1 million people (9.3% of the United States population) have diabetes. However, 8.1 million (27.8%) of them are undiagnosed. Here are a few tell-tale signs that could show that you have diabetes. 

1. Increased Urination and Thirst 

With too much sugar in your system, your kidneys are consistently hard at work filtering out the extra glucose in your body, which produces a lot of urine. Losing extra liquid through this process, in turn, makes you more thirsty. Your body needs a constant supply of water in order to remove the high levels of glucose in your blood stream. 

2. Extreme Fatigue and Irritation 

After waking up multiple times during the night to urinate, diabetics are often extremely tired. Although it may not seem like a big deal, interruptions during your sleep cycle keep you from sleeping soundly and feeling refreshed. The lack of sleep also results in increased irritability as you aren’t well rested. 

3. Blurry Vision 

High glucose levels causes the capillaries (blood vessels) in your eyes to swell, leading to distorted vision. If caught early on, your vision can be restored, but if the condition lasts for a long time, it can eventually lead to retinopathy

4. Numbness 

Having too much glucose in your blood can cause your nerves to lose sensation in a disorder known as neuropathy. Numbness typically first occurs in the hands and feet, but can spread to major organs such as the heart. 

5. Slow Healing Wounds 

Your body is unable to heal itself at a normal rate due to reduced blood circulation caused by narrowed blood vessels. The high rates of glucose decreases red blood cells’ ability to carry nutrients, which then lowers white blood cells’ ability to fight infections and close wounds. 

Many of these symptoms are related, so if you show one or more of these symptoms, talk to a doctor to check if you have diabetes. 

Disclaimer: Showing these signs does not mean you have diabetes, and not showing these signs does not mean you do not have diabetes. Please consult a doctor to be certain. 

Jocelyn Hsu is a 2nd year Public Health major at UC Berkeley. She has volunteered at various hospitals including Cedars-Sinai and Children Hospital and Research Center Oakland and is currently the Director of Marketing & Design for Morning Sign Out, a biomedical publication. Jocelyn’s passion is for food, whether it is eating food or taking part in the food movement. She also really enjoys photography, her personal de-stresser. 

Main Photo Credit: Image Point Fr/; Fatigue Photo Credit: Dean Drobot/; Wound Photo Credit: Piotr Marcinski/; and Remaining Photo Credits: Jocelyn Hsu.