Type 2 diabetes is a common condition. More than 37 million peopleTrusted Source in the United States have diabetes, with 90–95% having type 2 diabetes.
The onset of type 2 diabetes can be gradual, and symptoms can be mild during the early stages. As a result, many people may not realize that they have this condition.
In this article, we look at the early signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes and the importance of early diagnosis. We also discuss the risk factors for developing this condition.
Early signs and symptoms
The early signs and symptomsTrusted Source of type 2 diabetes can include:
1. Frequent urination
When blood sugar levels are high, the kidneys try to remove the excess sugar by filtering it out of the blood. This can lead to a person needing to urinate more frequentlyTrusted Source, particularly at night.
2. Increased thirst
The frequent urination necessary to remove excess sugar from the blood can result in the body losing additional water. Over time, this can cause dehydration and make a person feel more thirsty than usual.
3. Frequent hunger
People with diabetes often do not get enough energy from their food.
The digestive system breaks food down into a simple sugar called glucose, which the body uses as fuel. In people with diabetes, not enough of this glucose moves from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.
As a result, people with type 2 diabetes often feel constantly hungry, regardless of how recently they have eaten.
Type 2 diabetes can impact a person’s energy levels and cause them to feelTrusted Source fatigued.
Diabetes fatigue occurs due to insufficient sugar moving from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.
5. Blurry vision
An excess of sugar in the blood can damage the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, which can cause blurry vision. This can occur in one or both eyes.
High blood sugar levels can also lead to swelling of the eye lens. This can cause blurred vision but will improve when blood sugar levels reduce.
If a person with diabetes goes without treatment, the damage to these blood vessels can become more severeTrusted Source, and permanent vision loss may eventually occur.
6. Slow healing of cuts and wounds
High sugar levels in the blood can damage the body’s nerves and blood vessels, which can impair blood circulation. As a result, even small cuts and wounds may take weeks or months to heal. Slow wound healing also increases the risk of infection.
7. Tingling, numbness, or pain in the hands or feet
High blood sugar levels can affect blood circulation and damage the nervesTrusted Source. In people with type 2 diabetes, this can lead to pain or a sensation of tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
This condition is known as neuropathy. It can worsen over time and lead to more serious complications if a person does not get treatment for their diabetes.
8. Patches of darker skin
Patches of darker skin forming on creases of the neck, armpit, or groin can also result from diabetes. These patches may feel soft and velvety.
This skin condition is known as acanthosis nigricans.
9. Itching and yeast infections
Excess sugar in the blood and urine provides food for yeast, which can lead to infection. Yeast infections tend to occur on warm, moist areas of the skin, such as the mouth, genital areas, and armpits.
The affected areas are usually itchy, but a person may also experience burning, skin discoloration, and soreness.
Importance of early diagnosis
Recognizing the early signs of type 2 diabetes can allow a person to get a diagnosis and treatment sooner.
Getting appropriate treatment, making lifestyle changes, and controlling blood sugar levels can greatly improve a person’s health and quality of life and reduce the riskTrusted Source of complications.
Without treatment, persistently high blood sugar levels can lead to severe and sometimes life threatening complications, including:
nerve damage, or neuropathy
kidney disease, which can result in a person needing dialysis
eye disease or loss of vision
Keeping blood sugar levels under control is crucial for preventing some of these complications. The longer blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the risk of other health problems.
Untreated diabetes can also leadTrusted Source to hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome (HHS), which causes a severe and persistent increase in blood sugar levels. An illness or infection will usually trigger HHS, which can require hospitalization. This sudden complication tends to affect older people.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
Anyone can develop type 2 diabetes, but certain factors can increase a person’s risk. These risk factors includeTrusted Source:
being 45 years of age or older
living a sedentary lifestyle
having overweight or obesity
eating an unbalanced diet
having a family history of diabetes
having polycystic ovary syndrome
having a medical history of gestational diabetes, heart disease, or stroke
Diabetes and ethnicity
The prevalence of diabetes is different among races and ethnicities. The American Diabetes Association reports the following rate of diagnosed diabetes in adults in different groups.