9 Early Signs of Diabetes You Must Know (#2 is so Often Overlooked)

9 Early Signs of Diabetes: The Symptoms In Adults and Children

[Last updated 8th December, 2017]

Diabetes is sneaky.

The early symptoms can go unnoticed for months or years.

In fact, 1 in 3 people with type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it.

1 in 3.

Most actually do experience the early signs but don’t realise or understand what they are.

Early detection and treatment can have a profound impact on your long-term health. A 3-year delay in diagnosis increases your relative risk of heart disease by 29% (1).

Therefore by knowing what to look for, you can take control of the situation before it takes control of you.

Diabetes Symptoms In Adults and Children

Diabetes Symptoms In Children and AdultsDiabetes is the term given to blood sugar (glucose) levels that are too high for a sustained period of time.

The signs or symptoms of high blood sugar are typically the same for both children and adults.

Patients with type 1 diabetes usually develop symptoms over a sudden, short period of time. The condition is often diagnosed in an emergency setting.

Type 2 diabetes on the other hand progresses quite slowly. Symptoms tend to come on gradually, which is why they are often overlooked. Some don’t experience any early symptoms at all.

The following early signs of diabetes are the most common:

1. Increased urination is arguably the most common

The Early Signs of Diabetes: 9 Symptoms In Adults and Children
A significant increase in how often you urinate (Polyuria) is a tell-tale symptom of high blood sugar.

As a point of reference, the average person pees 4 to 7 times in a 24-hour period.

Waking up during the night to go, even though you already went right before bed, is a common red flag.

Why does this happen?: Your kidneys are working overtime to expel the excess sugar in your blood. Sugar that the kidneys are unable to absorb must be urinated out. Therefore high sugar levels leads to more urination.

2. Excessive thirst is one of the classic early signs of diabetes

The Early Signs of Diabetes: 9 Symptoms In Adults and ChildrenDrinking unusually large amounts of fluids throughout the day and even overnight is a glaring symptom.

Intake can be something like 4 litres (1 gallon) or more per day. You can even start to feel thirsty immediately after you’ve just had a drink.

The more you drink, the more you urinate, which feeds back into the excessive urination cycle.

Why does this happen?: This is the body’s response to increased urination. With all that extra fluid loss, you become very dry and thirsty.

3. Feeling extremely hungry (even after just eating a meal)

The Early Signs of Diabetes: 9 Symptoms In Adults and Children

Those with diabetes can have what seems to be an insatiable appetite. For both healthy and not so healthy foods.

The brain is constantly telling you to eat, as though you haven’t eaten a thing.

Why does this happen?: Diabetics cannot self-regulate blood sugar well, which leads to significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels. When these levels plummet, the brain thinks it is starving and craves more sugar and calories.

4. Unexpected and unintentional weight loss

Rapid and unintentional weight loss is one of the more obvious signs of diabetes. This could be anywhere from 5-10 kg (11-22 lbs) in a matter of weeks or months.

This symptom is much more typical of those with type 1 diabetes, where sugar metabolism can shutdown very quickly.

Why does this happen?: Without new energy coming into the cells, the body is tricked into thinking you are in starvation. In order to provide energy, the body responds by breaking down protein in the muscle, which leads to muscle deterioration and the unexpected weight loss.

5. Unusual fatigue and feeling very weak

The Early Signs of Diabetes: 9 Symptoms In Adults and ChildrenUnmanaged diabetes will leave you feeling lousy, tired and lazy.

It can even be described as fatigue or extreme lethargy, where you are feeling too weak to do your regular everyday activities.

Why does this happen?: With sugar remaining in the blood rather than entering the cells for energy, you literally have less energy. The body is also expending additional energy to compensate for its irregular sugar levels. Kidneys in overdrive, coupled with regular sugar crashes and poor sleep (due to frequent urination) starts to take its toll.

6. Tingling (pins and needles) or numbness in hands or feet

A tingling or numb sensation in the body’s extremities – such as hands and feet – is a common early sign of diabetes.

It tends to occur first thing in the morning after you wake up, and can even feel more like a burning sensation.

Why does this happen?: Sugar that lingers in the blood will begin to damage nerves and nerve-endings. Nerves that are furthest from the heart are not well repaired due to circulation problems.

7. Blurred vision is one of the early signs of diabetes

The Early Signs of Diabetes: 9 Symptoms In Adults and ChildrenDistorted or blurred vision, as well as commonly seeing ‘eye floaters’ is a common symptom of diabetes.

Fortunately it’s largely a reversible problem once the high blood sugar levels are corrected.

Why does this happen?: Excess glucose (sugar) in the blood pulls fluids out of your cells and tissue. This includes the lens of your eye, which can swell and alter its ability to focus.

8. Itchy or dry skin

Overly itchy or irritated skin can be a sign of high sugar and hormone disruption (which is why it is the number 1 symptom of hypothyroidism).

The skin may even darken around the armpits or neck, known as Acanthosis Nigricans.

Why does this happen?: Dry skin can be the result of poor circulation and/or excessive fluid loss from urinating too much. Darkening skin is to do with a hormonal change, namely insulin resistance.

9. Cuts or wounds that are very slow to heal

The Early Signs of Diabetes: 9 Symptoms In Adults and ChildrenIt’s not uncommon for an individual with high blood sugars to get a bruise or cut that just does not heal.

This is particularly common on the extremities that are furthest from the heart, like hands or feet.

Why does this happen?: Sugar lingering in the bloodstream begins to damage the arteries and veins, which restricts circulation. Blood is required to facilitate healing, so limited circulation to a wound or bruise will slow the healing process dramatically.

Do you have any of those symptoms?

If you experience any of those early signs of diabetes, visit your GP to test your blood sugar levels.

They can even do a non-invasive finger prick test first to get a general idea, followed by a HbA1c test.

An early diagnosis can stop these temporary symptoms from becoming permanent.

9 Early Signs of Diabetes: The Symptoms In Adults and Children


  1. ve lost extra weight, you may then concentrate on keeping yourself healthy.
    However, you should first examine your true motivations for wanting to shed weight.
    It helps maintain flexibility of muscles and elasticity of connective tissues.

  2. Hi, Joe Nicely describe. stress and depression also cause the diabetes.

  3. Diabetes can come from an infection in the pancreas. It’s not always a diet or weight issue.

    These infections are difficult to get rid of because they’re deep in the body. Soak in Epsom salt baths and hydrogen peroxide.

  4. No, stress and depression don’t cause diabetes. No, don’t soak in Epsom salts and hydrogen peroxide. Go see a doctor. They know more than “Sam” and “Matt” on J. Random Website. Too many people are harmed or die from thinking “Oh, I am smarter than my doctor.” Yes, you may be smarter, but you don’t know as much about medicine and diseases and treatments than they do.

    (In my case, an endocrinologist tested to see why I got type 1 diabetes, and the end result was “we don’t know”. He had tested for antibodies to several common viruses which can kill the islet cells in the pancreas, and found I had none of those. The end result is just that I got type 1 diabetes at age 42, there is no known reason why, and that I need external insulin to digest sugars because my body produces none, and that I need to take care of my body if I wish it last. That last recommendation is pretty much the same for every human on the planet.)

    • As my doctor told me stress can cause diabetes ( especially if you have a family history of diabetes) and it can make it worse. I agree only a doctor that examines you can determine what what type diabetes you have and what the best treatment is for you. It is not something to play around with I have watch two of my relatives suffer and die from complications from uncontrolled diabetes.

  5. Christopher says:

    We just started noticing some symptoms like frequent urinating and unsatisfied hunger, not to mention the recent weightloss and fatigue. Just a feeling of helplessness and exhaustiveness., even in the early hours of the morning immediately after waking up. Pls, what are your advice…?

    • Joe Leech, Dietitian says:

      Hi Christopher, they are very vague symptoms and could be related to many different things. I’d suggest seeing your doctor about this. 🙂

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