By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
All types of diabetes have similar symptoms because the symptoms usually arise from high blood sugar.
Main symptoms of diabetes
There are three cardinal features of high blood sugar and diabetes. These include:
Polydipsia – increased thirst
Polyphagia – increased hunger
Polyuria – increased frequency of urination particularly at night.
Other symptoms of diabetes
In addition there is increased feeling of tiredness and fatigue. In most type 1 diabetics there may be unexplained weight loss with loss of muscle bulk. This may not be common among type 2 diabetics.
Type 1 diabetes usually develops rapidly over weeks or even days whereas type 2 diabetes develops slowly over years. People with type 1 diabetes may be very sick by the time they are diagnosed. They may also develop dehydration, ketonuria and breathlessness. Because type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people with high blood sugar have no symptoms.
Long term features of diabetes
Long term features of diabetes include:-
Blurred vision or eye problems - this could include problems in vision especially in dim light and added light sensitivity. Blindness may occur in severely uncontrolled diabetics. This is called diabetic retinopathy. This occurs due to damage to the small blood vessels within the light sensitive retina of the eyes.
Damage to nerves may lead to pain, tingling, and a loss of feeling. This usually affects the toes and fingers first.
Nerve damage may also lead to problems digesting the food and urinating. Nerve damage can also make it harder for men to have an erection.
Diabetics in early as well as late stages are prone to infections. This is because their blood sugar being high forms a favourable medium or growth medium for microbes. Due to lowered immunity the diabetics also have diminished defences against these infections. Fungal infections of the vulva in females are common leading to itching. Urinary tract infections in men and women, non-healing ulcers and sores over the foot and other parts of the body occur in diabetics. If left untreated these sores may turn severe and lead to blood infections like sepsis or gangrene necessitating amputation of the limb.
Due to damage to small and large blood vessels diabetics are also at a greater risk of heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure, high blood pressure and strokes.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Dec 24, 2012