Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2020.

Type 2 diabetes can slowly develop over many years. Many people who have type 2 diabetes show no symptoms, or their symptoms may be mild. Since the signs and symptoms can come on so gradually, people may have type 2 diabetes for years before they are diagnosed with the disease.1

In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin, a hormone that helps glucose, also known as sugar, get into cells to be used for energy. Eventually, the pancreas does not make enough insulin. Because the body is resistant to insulin and there is not enough insulin to help this process, too much glucose stays in the blood.2

Knowing the possible signs and symptoms of diabetes can lead to early diagnosis and treatment. This can help prevent the complications of diabetes and lead to better health.

Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Even though diabetes can develop without symptoms, there are some common signs of high blood glucose. These symptoms can provide clues that you may have diabetes:1-3

  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain, especially in the legs, feet, arms, and hands
  • Sores or cuts that heal slowly or do not heal
  • Excessive thirst and increased urination
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Constant hunger

Understanding diabetes signs and symptoms

If your blood sugar level has been high for a long period of time, you may experience 1 or more of these symptoms.

Blurred vision

Blurred vision is one of the most common symptoms of poorly controlled blood sugar. This symptom can appear at any stage of diabetes. High blood sugar levels cause the lens of the eye to swell, which can cause blurry vision.4

Frequent infections

High blood sugar can weaken the body’s immune system. This makes the body less able to fight many different kinds of infections. For this reason, people with diabetes are more likely to develop infections, and their infections tend to be more severe.5

Numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet and hands

Over time, high blood sugar can harm nerves throughout the body. Nerve damage, also called neuropathy, causes numbness, tingling, or pain, usually in the feet, legs, hands, and arms. About 50 percent of people with diabetes have neuropathy.6

Sores or cuts that heal slowly or do not heal

High blood sugar damages blood vessels throughout the body and causes poor circulation. This reduces blood flow to the skin and makes it weaker, which increases the risk for sores or cuts. Poor circulation also makes it harder for the body to heal wounds.7

Excessive thirst and increased urination

Excessive thirst and increased urination are signs that the kidneys are working overtime to filter high levels of glucose out of the blood. When the kidneys cannot keep up, the body pulls in water from your tissues to help get rid of the extra sugar. This extra water is removed in urine. This process usually makes people with diabetes dehydrated and leaves them feeling thirsty. As they drink more fluids to quench their thirst, it leads to even more urination.1

Sudden weight loss, constant hunger, and fatigue

When blood glucose levels are too high, the body sometimes burns fat and muscle for energy. This can cause sudden weight loss. Dehydration from increased urination can also cause weight loss, as well as fatigue. High blood sugar levels also prevent the body from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs, causing feelings of fatigue.3

While these are the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes, spikes or drops in blood glucose levels can cause additional symptoms, which is why it's important to see a doctor if you have any concern related to your health.

Check in with your doctor

If you experience some or all of these symptoms and have not been diagnosed with diabetes, you should see your doctor and discuss your symptoms. Your doctor will evaluate you and can identify the cause of the symptoms. As part of this evaluation, your doctor will measure your blood glucose to determine if it is high and whether you have diabetes.

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, these symptoms are signs that your blood sugar is not under control. You should discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They can help you take steps to control your blood glucose levels.

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