Signs and Symptoms
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes exhibit the same basic symptoms of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels. Some symptoms, such as tingling or burning in the hands and feet (neuropathy) or slow-healing wounds, are actually complications caused by long-term uncontrolled blood glucose.
It's important to note that not all people with type 2 diabetes will have symptoms, particularly in the early stages of the disease. In fact, up to a third of all Americans with type 2 diabetes are unaware that they have it.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include one or more of the following:
Thirst and frequent urination
Tingling or burning pain in the feet, legs, hands, or other parts of the body
Fatigue, or a feeling of being “rundown” and tired
Unexplained weight loss
Frequent or recurring infections (e.g., urinary tract infections, yeast infections)
Slow healing of cuts and bruises
Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS)
When blood glucose levels exceed 600 mg/dl (33.3 mmol/l), a condition known as hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS) may occur. In HHNS, the body becomes severely dehydrated.
Older adults tend to develop HHNS more readily, although the condition can occur at any age. HHNS is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Indications of the syndrome include the following signs and symptoms:
Dizziness or feeling faint
Disorientation and/or sleepiness
Visual disturbances and/or hallucinations
Hemiplegia (paralysis or weakness on one side of the body)
In extreme cases, coma
Diagnosing Type 2 Diabetes
A blood plasma glucose test, either casual (any time of day) or fasting (no calorie-containing food or drink for the preceding eight hours), is used to diagnose type 2 diabetes. A normal, non-fasting blood glucose reading is between 60 and 140 mg/dl (3.3–7.8 mmol/l).
A casual plasma glucose reading of 200 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/l) or higher (accompanied by symptoms of hyperglycemia), a fasting plasma glucose reading of 126 mg/dl (7.0 mmol/l) or higher, or an oral glucose tolerance test with a two-hour post-load value of 200 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/l) or higher are readings that may indicate diabetes. For more on tests for diagnosing diabetes, see here.
Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) is a form of diabetes caused by a specific genetic defect of beta cell function. Although MODY is treated like type 2 diabetes, with diet, exercise, and occasionally oral medications, it is a distinctly different class of diabetes.
Long-term uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause major damage to virtually every system in the body, head to toes. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of diabetes, it's crucial to visit a health care professional as soon as possible for evaluation.
If a diagnosis is made, maintaining tight control of your blood glucose levels is the best way to avoid serious complications.