Early Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes: How to Spot Type I, II & Gestational

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Early Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes: How to Spot Type I, II & Gestational

It’s often said that diabetes is a modern epidemic, affecting more than 250 million people worldwide. That’s over 100 million individuals in the United States alone. 

Even more concerning, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that almost 25% of those affected don’t know they have diabetes.

With these rising rates, it’s important to know the early signs and common symptoms of diabetes. Catching this disease at its earliest stages can prevent serious complications, and prevent or reverse the condition. 

Learning how to spot type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes is crucial knowledge, so read on to learn the signs.

Symptoms of Prediabetes

Without lifestyle changes and proper follow up, 10%-23% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes mellitus within the next five years. This condition can also be referred to as borderline diabetes or insulin resistance, and requires immediate action.

Symptoms of prediabetes aren’t always clear, but can sometimes be:

  • Acanthosis nigricans: thick, dark, or velvet-like patches on the skin that can indicate high blood sugar levels
  • Frequent urination due to high blood glucose levels building up in the kidneys
  • High fasting blood sugar levels(100–125 milligrams per deciliter)

A prediabetes diagnosis indicates that the individual’s blood sugar levels need to be controlled to prevent full-blown diabetes and other health problems. However, the good news is that with proper intervention, prediabetes can be reversed.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes differs from type 2 diabetes in that it’s an autoimmune disease, and is much less common than type 2 diabetes. Only 5% of individuals with diabetes suffer from this type, though that rate is slowly rising. While lifestyle changes, genetics, or viruses may trigger its onset, it is unfortunately not preventable at this time.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms are typically quicker to spot and present suddenly. Since type 1 diabetes patients require enough insulin each day to survive, these symptoms should not be ignored:

  • Unexplained weight loss, despite eating more food
  • Extreme hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Slow healing bruises or cuts, since diabetes constricts blood vessels
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Raised levels of ketones, which the body uses for energy when there is a glucose imbalance
  • Dry mouth or fruity breath

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is often a slower buildup, with subtler emergence of symptoms. Some of the symptoms of the types of diabetes are similar, but there are also unique signs of each. Symptoms include:

  • Recurring infections, as the disease hampers the immune system
  • Blurry vision, as high blood sugar can pull fluid from the tissue in your eyes
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger and thirst 
  • Severe dry mouth
  • Dry skin and itching
  • Tingling or numbness in the feet and hands
  • Nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy
  • Dizziness

Gender-Specific Symptoms

  • Women with diabetes often experience recurrent or frequent yeast infections
  • Due to a weakened immune system, urinary tract infections are common in diabetic women as well
  • Erectile dysfunction is common in men with type 2 diabetes

Symptoms of Diabetes in Children

While children and infants may not be able to clearly articulate their symptoms of diabetes, there are still early signs you can look for in your little one. The American Diabetes Association notes that a primary concern is educating parents to notice early warning signs of diabetes. A healthcare provider can confirm the diagnosis with some simple tests. 

Here’s what to look for:

  • Sudden bed-wetting or accidents after successful potty training 
  • Extremely frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst or drinking large quantities
  • Increasingly fatigued or more tired than their peers
  • Recurrent illnesses

If your child seems to be sick or tired more often than other children, has continence issues when there were no previous problems, complains of extreme thirst, or has sudden weight loss, this type of diabetes may be to blame. Call your child’s doctor if you notice any of these early symptoms.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs only in women during pregnancy, caused by changing hormones. The placenta can produce a specific set of hormones that cause the woman’s cells to be desensitized to insulin.These shifts can interfere with typical insulin production and contribute to weight gain. 

Symptoms of gestational diabetes include:

  • Being considered overweight at the beginning of pregnancy
  • Rapid weight gain early in pregnancy
  • Sugar in urine
  • All the other symptoms of type 1 and 2 diabetes
  • Frequent vaginal or bladder infections

Risk Factors in Developing Diabetes

It’s important to see a healthcare provider right away if you suspect type 2 diabetes in yourself or your child, especially if you fit known risk factors. 

Without proper diabetes care, you face a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, hyperglycemia, nerve damage, and more complications of diabetes. These factors can include:

  • A family history of diabetes: people who have a family member with diabetes are up to 5.5 times more likely to also develop the disease
  • Heritage: Those of African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or Native American descent all have a heightened risk of developing diabetes
  • High blood pressure: this condition is present in 75% of diabetes cases
  • A sedentary lifestyle: regular exercise can improve insulin resistance
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: ovarian cysts are present in up to 82% of women with diabetes
  • Obesity: being overweight raises the risk of diabetes and an individual’s BMI can predict the severity of symptoms
  • A high-carb diet full of excess sugar and processed foods

How To Prevent Diabetes

While diabetes is a serious condition, it is not only treatable, but preventable and often reversible in cases of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. With some simple changes, your quality of life and overall wellness can improve!

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

The great news is that not only will the following list help reduce your chances of diabetes, but it can set healthy habits for the whole family. 

You can model these preventive steps for your children and reduce their risk of diabetes as well.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet, balanced in carbs and free of refined sugars.
  • Get active with regular exercise and decreasing sedentary activities like sitting and television-watching. Try 30 minutes a day, five days a week as recommended by NIDDK.
  • Quit smoking to significantly reduce diabetes risk.
  • Losing seven percent of your body weight can reduce your odds of developing diabetes by 27%.
  • Drink more water to improve insulin response and blood sugar control. 
  • Incorporate fiber-rich foods to balance blood sugar and insulin levels. 

Preventing Gestational Diabetes

  • Starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight, with a BMI under 25, reduces your odds of developing gestational diabetes. 
  • Similar to type 2 diabetes, you can lower your risk of gestational diabetes by being active when trying to conceive (though you should discuss exercise options with your doctor when pregnant or trying to conceive). 
  • Getting enough fiber and moderating sugar– low-fiber, restricted-carbohydrate, and high-glycemic diets can contribute to gestational diabetes.

Ready to stop the cycle in your life? For more information on how I can help you with this process, sign up for my webinar.

In Summary

  • It’s crucial to catch the early symptoms of diabetes in order to prevent and stop serious complications of the disease.
  • The most common symptoms of any type of diabetes include slow healing, blurred vision, frequent urination, increased hunger and thirst, and recurrent infections.
  • Risk factors can include weight, a sedentary lifestyle, family history of diabetes, certain heritages, high blood pressure, and more. 
  • Improving nutrition by adding in fiber, avoiding simple carbs and sugar, and staying hydrated with water can prevent this disease.
  • Additionally, changing a sedentary lifestyle for more activity and losing 7% of your body weight can drastically lower your insulin levels.
  • While diabetes symptoms are unpleasant and should never be ignored, you can prevent or control the condition with healthy choices.


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