Diabetes is the eight-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and that figure may be underreported.

Experts say diabetes symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the type of diabetes and disease progression.

Each year, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, with Type 2 accounting for up to 95% of diagnosed cases, according to the CDC. Symptoms are typically “slow and insidious,” said Dr. Mark Schutta, medical director of the Rodebaugh Diabetes Center at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. Some people go undiagnosed for years.

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“Those people eventually make their way in the health care system when they have a heart attack or stroke and their life changes forever,” he said.

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Below, we take a look at the symptoms of diabetes, including early signs, the difference between Type 1 and Type 2, and complications.

Do Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have different symptoms?

Experts say Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes share many common symptoms, including:

  • Polyuria, or urinating often
  • Polydipsia, or feeling thirsty
  • Extreme fatigue, or feeling very tired

However, symptoms from Type 1 diabetes are typically more sudden and typically occur at a younger age, said Dr. Peminda Cabandugama, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Onset can be so sudden that some patients develop diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes, before the patient even knows they have the disease.

“Those patients end up showing up in the emergency rooms with nausea, vomiting, and in extreme cases, a coma, which can lead to death,” Cabandugama said.

Type 2 diabetes is much slower progressing disease, experts say. A patient could be diabetic for years before presenting any symptoms.

People with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop blurry vision and more skin infections compared to people with Type 1 diabetes, Cabandugama said. They’re also more likely to have other medical conditions like high cholesterol or blood pressure, and obesity.

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Early signs of diabetes

In addition to urinating frequently and feeling thirsty, the Mayo Clinic also says some early symptoms of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes may include losing weight without trying, feeling more than hungry than usual, and developing blurry vision.

The American Academy of Dermatology also said symptoms that signal your blood sugar is too high may also appear on the skin:

  • Yellow, red, or brown patches
  • Darker area of skins that feels like velvet
  • Hard, thickening skin
  • Blisters
  • Skin infections
  • Open sores and wounds
  • Shin spots
  • Small, reddish-yellow bumps
  • Red or skin-colored raised bumps
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Yellowish scaly patches around your eyes
  • Skin tags

Prediabetes symptoms

Prediabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency estimates about 96 million Americans – or more than 1 in 3 people – have prediabetes and more than 80% don’t know they have it. Experts say this is because people with prediabetes typically exhibit mild or no symptoms.

Since prediabetes has no clear symptoms, the CDC says it’s important for your doctor to check your blood sugar, especially if you have certain factors like:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome

Diabetes symptoms in men vs. women  

The most common diabetes symptoms don’t differ between men and women, Cabandugama said, but women are more likely to develop yeast and urinary tract infections.

“They’re urinating so much and a lot of the urine has sugar in it so it tends to feed the bacteria in the urethra,” he said. “In males, we don’t see this as much (because) males have longer urethras (and) are not as prone to getting an infection.”

Gestational diabetes symptoms

Gestational diabetes is when diabetes is diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The CDC says gestational diabetes typically doesn’t have any symptoms but it usually develops around 24 weeks of pregnancy, with doctors typically testing patients between 24 and 28 weeks.

Diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms  

The CDC says diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, occurs when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to get nutrients to the body’s cells. The body begins to break down muscle and fat for energy, which causes a buildup of acids – called ketones – in the blood and urine.

When too many ketones are produced too fast, the agency said they can get to dangerous levels in the body.

The first signs of DKA include extreme thirst and urinating frequently. However, DKA can progress into more symptoms like:

  • Fast, deep breathing
  • Dry skin and mouth
  • Flushed face
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Headache
  • Muscle stiffness or aches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain

Diabetic neuropathy symptoms  

Prolonged high blood sugar can injure nerves throughout the body, leading to a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The condition typically affects the nerves in the legs and feet but can also cause problems with the digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels, and heart.

The American Diabetes Association recommends doctors screen for diabetic neuropathy immediately after someone is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or five years after Type 1 diagnosis.

The Mayo Clinic advises calling a doctor you experience:

  • A cut or sore on your foot that is infected or won’t heal
  • Burning, tingling, weakness or pain in the hands or feet
  • Changes in digestion or urinating
  • Dizziness and fainting

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to know if you have diabetes: Here's a look at early signs and symptoms

2023-05-25T17:04:49Z dg43tfdfdgfd