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12 Early Signs of Diabetes To Watch Out For

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jan 29, 2023

    12 Early Signs of Diabetes To Watch Out For

    Many people find out too late that they have diabetes mellitus. In fact, the sooner you detect the symptoms and early signs of diabetes, the greater your chances are of avoiding the dangerous complications of diabetes. What are the symptoms of diabetes that commonly occur?

    Check out the various early signs of diabetes below.

    Early Signs of Diabetes To Watch Out For

    Diabetes is a common disease in the Philippines. Most diabetics, especially those with type 2 diabetes, often do not experience early symptoms. They only find out about their condition after checking their blood sugar.

    This is common because the early symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop slowly, unlike type 1 diabetes, which has symptoms that appear quickly.

    However, if you do notice the symptoms early, regardless of the type of diabetes you have, you will be able to benefit from getting the right treatment. That way, you can minimize the risk of serious complications.

    Here are twelve early signs of diabetes that you need to be aware of:

    early signs of diabetes

    1. Frequent urination

    Have you been going back and forth to the bathroom a lot lately? If so, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. The reason? Frequent urination (polyuria) is one of the early signs of diabetes. This symptom is a strong indication of diabetes if it occurs especially at night, or if it wakes you in the middle of the night to go to the toilet.

    Diabetics tend to suffer from frequent urination because blood sugar levels are too high. Ideally, blood sugar will be filtered by the kidneys and reabsorbed into the blood. However, because it is too high, the kidneys cannot absorb all the sugar in the body. This makes the kidneys work hard to remove excess blood sugar through the urine.

    As a result, the urine produced is thicker and the kidneys will automatically take more fluid from the body to dilute it.

    At this point, your body will send a thirst signal to the brain so that you will drink more. And because of increased fluid intake, your body will try to get rid of the excess fluid by urinating more often.

    early signs of diabetes

    2. Thirst

    In addition to frequent urination, a typical symptom of diabetes is thirst (polydipsia). Thirst as a characteristic of diabetes is different from everyday thirst because it will not go away even after drinking.

    Experiencing thirst is related to the symptoms of frequent urination. When you have early signs of diabetes, you feel thirsty because your body needs more fluid intake to replace the water that is lost through urine.

    When you have diabetes, glucose builds up in your blood. This of course will make the kidneys work extra hard to filter excess sugar before finally excreting it through urine. One of the efforts made by the kidneys is to absorb body fluids to remove excess sugar.

    As a result, the kidneys will produce more urine than usual. Because a lot of body fluids are lost, diabetics feel thirsty.

    3. Hunger

    Hunger is the most common symptom of diabetes, but it is often overlooked. Usually this happens when you have just had a heavy meal.

    In the body, food is converted into glucose. Glucose will then be used as a source of energy for every cell, tissue, and organ of your body. The hormone insulin is responsible for carrying out this process.

    People with diabetes have problems with insulin production or their body has a problem responding to insulin. As a result, the process of converting glucose into energy is hampered. Even after eating, energy needs are not met. The body “feels” that it has not received energy, and will send a signal to eat more — excessive hunger or an unusual increase in appetite (polyphagia).

    4. Drastic weight loss

    In addition to always wanting to eat, drastic weight loss can be a sign of diabetes. Weight loss is said to be drastic if the loss is more than 5% of your total body weight.

    Normally, the body will use glycogen (glucose) as an energy source. However, because insulin is unable to process glucose into energy, the body begins to “look for” other sources from the body, namely protein.

    The body will break down fat and muscle for energy, and this breakdown of muscle and fat is what makes diabetics lose weight.

    5. Dry skin

    Diabetes can also affect the skin. Diabetics often experience early signs of diabetes such as itchy and dry, scaly, or cracked skin.

    According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 3 people will experience these early signs of diabetes as skin problems are a common symptom of diabetes.

    This condition occurs because your body loses a lot of fluid through urine. As a result, the skin loses its natural moisture.

    In addition, itchy skin due to diabetes can occur due to reduced nerve sensitivity and obstruction of blood circulation. High blood sugar affects the functioning of the nervous system and causes the body to produce more cytokines (small proteins for cell signaling).

    Excessive production of cytokines can cause inflammation in the body. And this inflammatory reaction causes dry, itchy, and cracked skin.

    Another of the early signs of diabetes that can be seen on the skin is the appearance of dark patches. This occurs due to excessive pigment production due to high insulin levels in diabetics. Changes are usually characterized by the skin turning dark or scaly with the appearance of wrinkles in the area.

    6. Wounds that don’t heal

    Infections, insect bites, bruises, or diabetic wounds that don’t heal can be one of the early signs of diabetes. This condition occurs because high blood sugar levels cause the walls of the arteries to narrow and harden.

    As a result, the flow of oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body is blocked. The injured body part needs oxygen and nutrients contained in the blood so that it can heal. And because of this, open wound healing in diabetics tends to be slower.

    In addition, the early signs of diabetes are also exacerbated by a weak immune system. High blood sugar levels make the cells responsible for maintaining the immune system weaken. As a result, the slightest wound can become a severe infection that is difficult to treat.

    7. Visual problems

    Eyesight declines with age. However, if you often complain of visual problems such as blurred, blurry, or cloudy vision at a young age, you should be aware that this is one of the symptoms of diabetes.

    The high blood glucose of diabetics can cause nerve damage and bleeding in the blood vessels of the eye. In severe cases, impaired vision due to diabetes can also cause cataracts, glaucoma, and even permanent blindness.

    8. Tingling sensation on the fingers and toes

    Another common symptom of diabetes is tingling, numbness, or a cold sensation in the feet. In addition, another of the early signs of diabetes is swelling of the feet and hands.

    There are many factors that can cause tingling. However, in most cases, tingling in the hands or feet that lasts for a long time can be a symptom of nerve damage from a systemic disease such as diabetes.

    About 2 out of 3 people with diabetes experience these symptoms because of mild to severe nerve damage(peripheral neuropathy). Over time, the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in diabetic patients can worsen, resulting in decreased movement and even disability.

    Symptoms like this usually occur in someone who has had diabetes for 5 years or more.

    9. Weakness and headaches

    Patients with early-stage diabetes usually complain of headaches, feeling weak, and a lack of energy. There are two reasons that can lead to the appearance of these early signs of diabetes, namely blood sugar levels that are too high or too low (hypoglycemia).

    In addition to an imbalance in blood glucose levels in a person’s body, symptoms of diabetes can also appear because the insulin in the body does not work effectively or is at insufficient levels.

    Insulin itself needs to transport glucose from the blood into body cells so it can serve as energy source. When the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or the insulin it produces cannot work effectively, it means that the sugar in the blood cannot enter the body’s cells.

    As a result, the body’s cells do not receive the energy they need to function optimally, and you feel weak, sluggish, and powerless. Usually these early signs of diabetes will appear some time after eating.

    10. Fungal or bacterial infections

    Another of the early signs of diabetes that you can watch out for is being susceptible to various types of infections — not just bacterial infections from wounds that are difficult to heal, but also fungal infections.

    In women, symptoms of diabetes can begin with a yeast infection in the vagina. Symptoms can include itching, pain, discharge, and pain during sex. This vaginal infection is caused by the growth of the candida fungus.

    The reason fungal infections occur is that relatively high blood glucose levels inhibit the immune system’s response to fight bacteria and fungi that cause disease.

    For germs and bacteria, high sugar also provides an advantage because it increases the ability of germs to grow and spread. 

    11. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

    With diabetes, each person can experience varying symptoms. Broadly speaking there is no fundamental difference between the symptoms of diabetes in women and men. However, there are typical symptoms of diabetes that only occur in women.

    The characteristics of women who have diabetes are similar to those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This disorder occurs when the adrenal glands produce higher male hormones (hyperandrogenism) due to insulin resistance, which is the cause of diabetes.

    Signs you have polycystic ovary syndrome include irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and even depression. This condition can also cause infertility as well as increased blood sugar levels.

    12. Red and swollen gums

    Another of the early signs of diabetes are gum and tooth problems. In healthy people, the immune system will easily fight bacteria in the mouth. However, people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections because their immune system is weaker. As a result, the growth of bacteria becomes more rapid and causes gum infections.

    Learn more about Diabetes here.


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jan 29, 2023

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