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Early Warning Signs of Diabetes: What to Look For

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Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels, which can lead to various health complications if left untreated. Recognizing the early warning signs of diabetes is crucial for early diagnosis and effective management of the condition. In this blog post, we will discuss the most common signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of diabetes. By being aware of these warning signs, individuals can take prompt action, seek medical advice, and make lifestyle changes to better manage their health.

Increased thirst and frequent urination

One of the earliest signs of diabetes is increased thirst (polydipsia) and frequent urination (polyuria). When blood sugar levels are high, the kidneys work overtime to filter and absorb the excess glucose. As a result, more fluid is extracted from the body, leading to dehydration and a constant feeling of thirst. This excessive fluid loss also triggers frequent urination, as the body attempts to eliminate the excess glucose.

Unexplained weight loss

Unintentional weight loss can be a red flag for undiagnosed diabetes. When the body lacks sufficient insulin or becomes insulin resistant, it starts breaking down fat and muscle tissues for energy. This breakdown process can lead to a noticeable and unexplained decrease in weight, even if the individual has not made any significant changes to their diet or exercise routine.

Fatigue and weakness

Chronic fatigue and weakness are common symptoms experienced by individuals with diabetes. High blood sugar levels prevent the body from effectively utilizing glucose as a source of energy, leading to a constant feeling of fatigue. This fatigue can negatively impact daily activities and reduce overall productivity.

Increased hunger

Despite feeling hungry and eating regularly, individuals with undiagnosed diabetes may still experience increased hunger (polyphagia). The body's cells may not be receiving adequate energy due to insulin resistance or a lack of insulin, triggering persistent hunger pangs.

Slow healing of wounds and frequent infections

Elevated blood sugar levels can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to combat infections. Additionally, diabetes can impair blood circulation and damage blood vessels, which compromises the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body's tissues. As a result, wounds take longer to heal, and individuals may experience recurring infections, such as urinary tract infections, yeast infections, or skin infections.

Blurred vision

Another warning sign of diabetes is blurred vision. High blood sugar levels can cause fluid to be pulled from the lenses of the eyes, resulting in a temporary change in the shape of the lenses. This change affects the eye's ability to focus properly, leading to blurred vision. If left untreated, diabetes-related vision problems can progress and cause long-term damage to the eyes.

Numbness and tingling in extremities

Diabetes can cause damage to the nerves, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. One of the common symptoms of neuropathy is numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and legs. High blood sugar levels can lead to nerve damage over time, affecting the sensation and function of the extremities. If you notice persistent numbness, tingling, or a loss of sensation in your limbs, it is essential to seek medical attention for proper evaluation and management.

Dry skin and itching

Elevated blood sugar levels can contribute to dry skin and itching. Diabetes can cause excessive dehydration, leading to dry and flaky skin. Additionally, the skin may become more prone to infections due to reduced immune function, further exacerbating itching and discomfort. Maintaining good hydration, using moisturizers, and practicing proper skincare can help alleviate these symptoms.

Mood swings and irritability

Fluctuating blood sugar levels can affect your mood and lead to irritability, anxiety, and mood swings. When blood sugar levels are not properly regulated, it can disrupt the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain, impacting emotional well-being. If you notice significant changes in your mood or emotional stability, it is important to consider the possibility of diabetes and consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Erectile dysfunction in men

Men with diabetes may experience difficulties in achieving or maintaining an erection, a condition known as erectile dysfunction (ED). Diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves that are essential for the proper functioning of the male reproductive system. It is important to address this issue with a healthcare provider, as ED can be a sign of underlying diabetes and may also indicate an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Recurring gum infections

Diabetes can weaken the body's ability to fight off infections, including gum infections such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Individuals with diabetes may experience red, swollen, and bleeding gums, as well as persistent bad breath. Maintaining good oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups, is crucial for managing gum health and preventing further complications.


Recognizing and understanding the early warning signs of diabetes is vital for early diagnosis and effective management of the condition. By being aware of these signs, individuals can take proactive steps to seek medical advice, undergo appropriate testing, and make necessary lifestyle changes. Remember, if you experience any of the symptoms discussed in this blog post, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve outcomes and help individuals live a healthier and more fulfilling life with diabetes.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance and recommendations regarding your diabetes diagnosis.

Howard E. Stanton, MD

Howard Stanton, M.D., is a practicing internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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