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Uncontrolled Diabetes: Is Your Blood Sugar Becoming Unmanageable?

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Aug 30, 2022

Uncontrolled Diabetes: Is Your Blood Sugar Becoming Unmanageable?

Experts remind patients that they can still have a high-quality of life despite being diagnosed with diabetes – so long as it’s controlled. Generally, it means meeting your target blood glucose levels whenever possible. Maintaining a healthy level of blood sugar is crucial because uncontrolled diabetes can lead to numerous complications. What are the signs and symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes? 

Hyperglycemia: The Most Important Clue

The most important sign of an uncontrolled diabetes is hyperglycemia or high blood glucose. Generally, “normal” points to a blood glucose of about 70 to 130 mg/dl before meals and under 130 mg/dl within 2 hours after meals. Of course, your doctor may designate other target levels for you. They will also advise you on how frequently you should check your glucose. 

If you notice that you’re not reaching your target frequently, talk to your physician. Maybe you changed something in your diet or are in need of another exercise regimen. 

Other Signs of Uncontrolled Diabetes

Hyperglycemia can manifest physically, especially if it always happens. What physical signs can clue you in about your uncontrolled diabetes? 

1. Increased urination and thirst

Increased thirst (polydipsia) and increased urine output (polyuria) are two of the classic signs of hyperglycemia. They happen as the body attempts to get rid of the excess glucose through urination and because high blood glucose can interfere with water absorption resulting in increased thirst. 

2. Polyphagia or increased hunger

Along with increased thirst and urination, polyphagia or increased hunger is also a sign of diabetes. 

Uncontrolled diabetes means sugar remains in the blood instead of entering the cells to be used as energy. This might make the brain think that we need more food for energy, causing constant hunger. 

3. You notice changes in your skin

Uncontrolled diabetes can make it hard for the skin to retain moisture. As a result, your skin may become dry, crack, or itch. You might also develop other skin problems, such as blisters, diabetic stiff skin, or dark patches around the neck, groin, or armpits known as acanthosis nigricans. In the case of acanthosis nigricans, high levels of insulin or insulin resistance can be a sign of prediabetes or diabetes.

4. You experience frequent infections

One of the dangers of uncontrolled diabetes is that it puts you at a higher risk of developing infections or recovering more slowly from them. 

With diabetes, you might be more susceptible to:

  • Ear infections
  • Skin infections, like cellulitis
  • Yeast infections 
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Mouth and gastrointestinal infections
  • Urinary tract infections, such as cystitis 

If you notice that you’ve been having frequent infections, please consult your doctor right away. 

5. You often feel tired

Another thing that might clue you in is when you feel fatigued. The exact connection between fatigue and uncontrolled diabetes is still not known, but experts believe it has something to do with sleep problems and stress. The increased hyperglycemic attack may also be a contributing factor. 

6. Hearing and vision problems

Uncontrolled diabetes may damage the little blood vessels in the eyes, causing disturbances or even blindness. You might develop problems in reading, have blurry vision, or see flashes every now and then. 

The exact link between hearing loss and diabetes is not yet clear, but experts suspect it also has something to do with damage to the tiny blood vessels. 

7. Fruity breath

People with uncontrolled diabetes, especially one that has been going on for a long time already, may experience fruity or sweet-smelling breath. 

If ever you notice this, please seek medical help right away. This is one of the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication of diabetes. 

Work Closely With Your Doctor 

If you notice these signs, save for fruity breath as that requires immediate medical attention, please set an appointment with your doctor at the soonest possible time. Bring your blood sugar monitoring record and report when and how you experienced these signs. 

Based on their observations, they might ask you to modify your diet, physical activity, or medication.

Learn more about Diabetes here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Aug 30, 2022

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