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This is Often the "First Sign" of Diabetes

The most common diabetes symptoms, according to doctors.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the CDC, 37.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and 96 million people have prediabetes. "It's important for our patients to be aware of type 2 diabetes, because it can lead to some really serious complications in the body," says endocrinologist Dr. Shirisha Avadhanula. "Serious complications can be things like amputations, blindness, heart attacks and even strokes. So it's very important for the general public to have a baseline knowledge of what type 2 diabetes is and its potential complications." Here are the first signs of diabetes, according to doctors. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Doctor talking with an obese woman and measuring her.

Being obese is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes, doctors warn. "Not everyone who has obesity will have Type 2 diabetes, but the majority of people who are living with Type 2 diabetes will have obesity," says endocrinologist and obesity specialist Marcio Griebeler, MD. "This relationship has become known as 'diabesity.' So tackling obesity and managing diabetes is very helpful."


Increased Hunger and Thirst

Close-up of pretty young woman drinking water from glass

Increased thirst and hunger are common early signs of type 2 diabetes. "No matter how much you drink, it feels like you're still dehydrated. Your tissues (such as your muscles) are, in fact, dehydrated when there's too much glucose (sugar) in your blood," say Amy Hess-Fischl, MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDCES, and Lisa M. Leontis RN, ANP-C. "Your body pulls fluid from the tissues to try to dilute the blood and counteract the high glucose, so your tissues will be dehydrated and send the message that you need to drink more. This is also associated with increased urination. Even after you eat, you may still feel very hungry. That's because your muscles aren't getting the energy they need from the food; your body's insulin resistance keeps glucose from entering the muscle and providing energy. Therefore, the muscles and other tissues send a 'hunger' message, trying to get more energy into the body."

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Increased Urination

Woman with prostate problem in front of toilet bowl. Lady with hands holding her crotch, People wants to pee - urinary incontinence concept

An unexplained increase in urination is another early sign of diabetes. "The excess blood sugar molecules also 'spill' into the urine, meaning that as the blood filters through the kidneys, some of the sugar comes out of the blood and is not reabsorbed," says James Norman, MD, FACS, FACE. "The extra sugar which is now in the urine causes water molecules to follow (a normal physics principle) and therefore the person with diabetes urinates frequently (the second classic symptom of diabetes)."

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Vision Issues

African American afro woman with curly hair wearing casual sweater rubbing eyes for fatigue and headache, sleepy and tired expression

Blurry vision could be a symptom of type 2 diabetes, doctors say. "Early changes can include bleeding within the retina, which may not affect your vision at first. At any stage, you can develop swelling in the macula, which often leads to blurred central vision, known as macular edema," says ophthalmologist Julie Rosenthal, M.D., M.S. "The macula is where you have your 'sweet spot' of vision. It's what helps you recognize faces, read and see objects up close. You might not notice any problems during the earlier stages, so it's important to get your eyes examined regularly. If we can detect the issue early, we have a much better chance of preventing irreversible vision loss and the later stages of the disease."

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COVID-19 and Diabetes

Doctor and covid-19 infected patient in bed in hospital.

Having type 2 diabetes can make COVID-19 significantly more dangerous. "Unfortunately, throughout the course of the pandemic, we have really seen how type 2 diabetes can be very, very serious," says Dr. Avadhanula. "Patients with type 2 diabetes who are infected with the Coronavirus tend to have more serious complications when they are infected. In fact, there was a study that was done that showed that patients who had a history of type 2 diabetes that were infected with Coronavirus were seven times more likely to die than patients without serious underlying comorbid conditions. So we know that patients with type 2 diabetes and patients with obesity as well also tend to suffer a more severe illness if they are in fact infected with Coronavirus."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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