Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes to Prevent Complications

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Excessive Thirst

Diabetes causes excessive thirst as a result of hyperglycemia, more commonly known as high blood sugar. In people without diabetes, the kidneys recycle glucose so the body can use it properly. When you have high blood glucose levels on a consistent basis, the kidneys do not absorb the excess sugar. These organs excrete the excess sugar in the urine, which causes the body to produce even more urine. As urine production increases, the body becomes dehydrated, resulting in the need to drink more than normal.


Fatigue has several causes in diabetics. If a diabetic has hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, the body cannot make enough energy. This results in fatigue and tiredness. High blood sugar also causes fatigue in diabetics. Instead of entering the cells as an energy source, glucose circulates in the bloodstream. Diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes, occurs when ketones build up in the blood. People in diabetic ketoacidosis experience fatigue because their bodies cannot convert glucose to an energy source. Diabetics may also experience fatigue as the result of kidney damage, dehydration, heart disease and high blood pressure.


One of the most challenging symptoms of diabetes is irritability. This symptom presents a challenge because it affects the loved ones of diabetics. Symptoms such as blurred vision and thirst only affect the diabetic person. When a diabetic is irritable, it affects those who have to live and work with that person. Irritability often occurs as the result of low glucose levels in the bloodstream.

Frequent Urination

An increase in the blood osmolality of diabetics results in the body pulling fluids into the bloodstream. As the kidneys filter the blood, they produce urine and excrete it from the body. When the bloodstream has more fluid than normal, the kidneys have to filter out this excess fluid to prevent swelling and other symptoms of water retention. Another reason diabetics urinate frequently is because they tend to drink more to alleviate the excessive thirst associated with this condition. Excessive urination in diabetics causes the elimination of a large amount of urine each time the person uses the bathroom.

Unexplained Weight Loss

People without diabetes process calories and use them to provide energy for the body. When someone consumes an excessive amount of calories, the excess leads to weight gain if not balanced out with enough exercise to burn the extra calories. Diabetics do not use calories properly, so they lose weight even if they eat a high amount of calories. Another cause of weight loss in diabetics is dehydration. Dehydration causes fluid volume to decrease, which results in a loss of water weight.

Blurred Vision

Blurry vision occurs as the result of high blood sugar levels. People who have poorly-controlled diabetes sometimes develop a condition known as diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when long-term diabetes damages the retina of the eye. Diabetes also increases the risk of cataracts and glaucoma. Cataracts cause the lense of the eye to cloud, which impairs vision. Glaucoma occurs when the fluid pressure inside the eye increases. This causes damage to the optic nerve, which leads to blurry vision and loss of vision.

Recurrent Infections

Diabetes, and other chronic illnesses, may suppress the function of the immune system. In healthy people without major chronic diseases, the immune system responds to foreign invaders by producing antibodies. These antibodies fight infections and help the body overcome illnesses. Diabetes impairs the immune system of some people, which means that their immune system does not respond properly to infections. One common type of recurring infection in diabetics is the urinary tract infection, which can affect the bladder, ureters or kidneys.

Slow-Healing Wounds

Diabetes makes it difficult for wounds to heal quickly. Even the most minor cuts and scrapes could take longer than usual to heal. This problem has several causes. People with diabetes often have poor circulation, which makes it difficult for oxygen to reach skin wounds. Since oxygen helps wounds heal, the reduced oxygen level slows the healing process. Impaired immune system function causes wounds to heal slowly because the system does not clear damaged tissues and generate new cells properly. Diabetics have a greater risk of wound infection, which impairs the healing process. Nerve damage in diabetics also causes slow-healing wounds. This often occurs in the feet of diabetics, because nerve damage makes it difficult to feel shoes rubbing against the skin. Without the proper footwear and foot care, minor skin irritations can lead to calluses that turn into open sores.

Numbness in the Extremities

Nerve damage also causes another one of the major symptoms of diabetes, numbness in the hands and feet. As nerve damage gets worse, diabetics cannot feel their feet and hands, increasing the risk of injury. In some cases, diabetics require amputations of one of their extremities because of the severe nerve damage, poor circulation and infected wounds.