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Diabetes symptoms you shouldn’t ignore

08 March 2013

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Diabetes is a worldwide epidemic that is regularly in the media spotlight. Despite all of the coverage, would you be able to spot the symptoms?

Most people know that there are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually affects people before the age of 40 and most commonly during childhood. Type 2 diabetes is sometimes known as adult-onset diabetes and usually occurs after the age of 40, although it can be earlier.

How much do you know about the symptoms of diabetes?

Depending on the type of diabetes, symptoms can be quite subtle, and may be difficult to distinguish from things that happen every now and then. Now we know a bit more about diabetes, let’s look at some of the most common symptoms and at what point you should book an appointment with your doctor.


One of the initial symptoms of diabetes, polydipsia, means that you are excessively thirsty and is usually accompanied by a dry mouth.

When to see your doctor: Everyone gets thirsty but if you feel thirsty all the time or your thirst continues even after you’ve had a drink, it may be a signal that all is not right.


Do you feel like you’re urinating more than usual? Usually, an adult urinates between one and two litres of urine every day. Polyuria means that you are urinating more than three litres of urine per day.

When to see your doctor: If you’re spending more time than usual in the toilet it may be a good idea to make a note of how often you’re urinating and discuss it with your doctor.


Are you finding that no matter how much you eat, you’re still hungry? Polyphagia is the name given to excessive hunger or an increased appetite. If your body is unable to convert the glucose in your blood into energy, the lack of energy can cause an increase in hunger.

When to see your doctor: If you’re worried about increased hunger, speak to your doctor to find out if it’s a symptom of diabetes.


We all feel tired or run down at some point but usually a bit of rest soon perks us up. However, if you find that your tiredness doesn’t disappear with rest or sleep, this is known as fatigue and can be one of the tell-tale signs of diabetes.

When to see your doctor: If you’ve been feeling fatigued for over three weeks despite getting plenty of sleep, make an appointment to see your doctor for advice.

Weight loss

Most of us would like to trim off a few pounds here or there. However, if you find that you’re losing weight without trying through diet and exercise, it could be a sign that your body isn’t getting the energy it needs from glucose and has started using your stores of fat and muscle for energy.

When to see your doctor: As a guide, if you’ve unintentionally lost more than five percent of your normal body weight during a period of between six and 12 months, you should speak to your doctor.

Blurred vision

Are you struggling to see the finer details of life? Diabetes can cause one or both of your eyes to lose some of the sharpness of vision. This should never be ignored.

When to see your doctor: If you’ve suddenly noticed a change in your vision, it’s time to have your eyes tested.

Slow healing

If you have a cut or wound that just won’t clear up, it could be a sign that diabetes is delaying or complicating the healing process. This could be because high levels of blood glucose can affect your nerves, leading to poor circulation and making it hard for blood to reach your cut or wound.

When to see your doctor: If a cut or wound is taking longer than normal to heal or is looking infected, arrange for it to be examined by your doctor.

Genital itching

Sometimes, an allergy or irritant may cause itchiness around your genitals. Avoiding the irritant will usually resolve the problem. If you find that you continue to get genital itchiness, it could be a sign of a yeast infection caused by type 2 diabetes.

When to see your doctor: Speak to your doctor if you have genital itchiness for more than a couple of days or it’s causing you concern.

You may have one or more of the above symptoms and it may be another condition causing your symptoms. If you have any doubts or worries, the most important thing you can do is speak to your doctor so he or she can give you advice and organise any tests that you may need.


Produced by Dylan Merkett, Bupa Health Information Team.

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