9 early warning signs of Type 2 diabetes


by Jeremy Brown, DO

Apr 26, 2024

Type 2 diabetes, once considered an adult-onset condition, is becoming more common in people of all ages worldwide. This chronic condition occurs when your body becomes resistant to a hormone called insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Many people may have Type 2 diabetes without even knowing it, as symptoms can be subtle or easily mistaken for other health issues. That's why understanding the early warning signs is crucial to make sure you can get an early diagnosis and prevent diabetes complications down the road.

When it comes to preventing and managing diabetes, knowledge is power. So, let's delve into the most common early signs of Type 2 diabetes.

But before we do, please keep in mind that many of these symptoms can be due to a variety of other reasons, and symptoms vary from person to person. It’s always best to talk to your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary for you—they know you and your health best, so they’re the right place to start anytime you’re feeling “off.”

9 early warning signs of Type 2 diabetes

1. Excessive thirst and hunger

Do you often find yourself constantly reaching for the water bottle or raiding the fridge despite recently eating? Experiencing unexplained thirst or hunger could be your body's way of signaling high blood sugar levels.

In terms of increased hunger, your cells aren't getting enough glucose due to insulin resistance, which happens when your cells don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily use the insulin circulating in your blood. Because your body can’t convert this glucose to energy, you’ll experience increased hunger.

In terms of increased thirst, when glucose levels in the body are high, your kidneys need to produce more urine to help pass the glucose out of your body. This can make you feel thirsty because your brain is telling you to drink more to make up for the fluids you've lost.

2. Frequent urination

Making more trips to the bathroom than is normal for you, especially during the night, could be a red flag for Type 2 diabetes. Excess glucose in your bloodstream pulls water from your tissues, leading to increased urination. Your kidneys work overtime to filter and get rid of the excess sugar, resulting in frequent urination, a classic symptom of diabetes.

3. Fatigue and weakness

Feeling tired and sluggish despite getting enough rest? High blood sugar levels can interfere with your body's ability to convert glucose into usable energy, leaving you feeling drained and fatigued.

4. Blurred vision

Blurry vision or sudden changes in eyesight can be an early warning sign of Type 2 diabetes. This is because elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina (a light-sensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye). Damaged blood vessels can lead to fluid buildup in the eyes, causing blurry vision and/or stopping blood flow.

If you notice changes in your vision, talk to your doctor about whether your blood sugar levels could be a factor. Untreated diabetes can lead to more severe eye complications over time, so it’s important to spot the signs early.

5. Slow wound healing

High blood sugar levels can impair your body's ability to heal and fight off infections, so another sign of Type 2 diabetes is if cuts and bruises take longer to heal. Poor circulation and nerve damage, common complications of diabetes, can further slow down the healing process.

6. Tingling or numbness in hands and feet

Numbness, tingling or burning sensations in your hands and feet, known as peripheral neuropathy, can be an early sign of nerve damage caused by diabetes. Persistently high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves throughout your body, leading to symptoms such as numbness, pain or weakness in the extremities.

If you experience any sensations of tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, talk to your doctor.

7. Unexplained weight loss

While it may seem surprising, unexplained weight loss can sometimes be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes. When your body doesn't produce enough insulin or becomes resistant to its effects, it may start burning fat and muscle for energy, leading to unintentional weight loss.

Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing rapid or unexplained changes in weight. Diabetes is just one of many potential causes.

8. Darkened skin patches

Acanthosis nigricans is a condition characterized by dark, velvety patches of skin, often around the neck, armpits or groin. It can be a visible indicator of insulin resistance and the development of diabetes.

These skin changes occur due to elevated insulin levels stimulating the growth of skin cells and increased melanin production. If you notice unusual skin changes, especially in areas of skin folds, bring it to your doctor’s attention.

9. Recurrent infections

Do you find yourself battling frequent infections, such as urinary tract infections, yeast infections or skin infections? High blood sugar levels can weaken your immune system's ability to fight off pathogens, making you more susceptible to infections.

Family history of diabetes?

Your family history also plays a significant role in your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. If you have close relatives with diabetes, especially parents or siblings, your risk may be higher due to shared genetic and lifestyle factors.

While you can't change your family history, being aware of your increased risk can help you take proactive steps today to lower your risk of diabetes and diabetes-related complications by prioritizing your well-being. Taking charge of your health today can make all the difference in preventing diabetes-related complications tomorrow.

If you’re worried about early symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor or find one near you today.

About the Author

Jeremy Brown, DO, is a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Primary Care at The Star.

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