Diabetes Symptoms: Listen To Your Body

Diabetes causes a breakdown in the body's ability to turn food into energy for our cells. A hormone called insulin is responsible for storing glucose (sugar) or using it immediately as a needed energy source.

If you have diabetes, the sugar from the food you eat stays in your blood (high blood sugar), instead of going into your cells. Just like a car needs gasoline as its energy source, our cells need glucose. After food is digested, the sugar from that food enters your bloodstream. 

If there is little or no insulin in your blood, you may experience these symptoms of Type 1 diabetes:

  • extreme thirst
  • increased passing of urine
  • increased hunger
  • sudden weight loss
  • feeling tired

This kind of diabetes is called Type 1 diabetes (absolute insulin deficiency).


If your pancreas is not producing enough insulin or your insulin is not working effectively, you may experience these symptoms:

  • feeling tired
  • frequent infections
  • slow-healing cuts or sores
  • blurred eyesight
  • problems with sexual function
  • dry, itchy skin
  • numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • increased thirst and frequent passing of urine

This kind of diabetes is called Type 2 (insulin resistant).

Less than 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. Approximately 90 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 is typically diagnosed in younger people. It is most often identified in childhood, but its diagnosis could extend up to approximately 30 years of age or older. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in people who are thin or of normal weight, and symptoms develop rapidly. This type of diabetes must be treated with insulin injections.

Type 2 diabetes is very different from Type 1, even though some of the symptoms are the same. Type 2 usually affects people 45 years of age and older, and is more common in individuals 30 percent or more above their ideal weight. Other common risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes, or a history of having a baby that weighed over 9 pounds at birth. Type 2 is more common among African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Diabetes affects 16 million Americans. It is the leading cause of blindness; and can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and amputations. The disease costs more than $92 billion in health care cost each year in expenditures and lost productivity.

If you or a family member have these symptoms or warning signs, you should contact your doctor promptly. Do not ignore what your body may be telling you. While there is no cure for diabetes, treatment is available and early detection to control diabetes can limit or prevent complications.

: This content was written by Karen McLaughlin, RN, BSN, community education senior coordinator, diabetes educator at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital. This material provides general information only. It should not be used in place of advice, instructions, or treatment given by your doctor or other health care professional.