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Diabetes Warning Signs You Need to Know, Say Experts

The condition can be catastrophic.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

COVID-19 isn't the only American epidemic you should be vigilant about. Last year, diabetes killed more Americans than the coronavirus. The condition—in the body becomes unable to process sugar efficiently, allowing it to build up in the blood—can be catastrophic, leading to heart disease, stroke, dementia, and blindness. So it's important to be alert to the common warning signs of diabetes. The earlier you seek medical care, the earlier diabetes can be controlled, and the more likely you are to avoid severe problems. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Increased Thirst

Black woman drinking bottled water

A common early sign of diabetes, increased thirst occurs as a direct effect of sugar (glucose) accumulating in the bloodstream. The kidneys normally process glucose, but excessive levels can cause them to become overwhelmed. As unprocessed glucose leaves the body through urine, it pulls water from surrounding body tissues. That can leave you dehydrated and craving fluids to replace what you're constantly losing. If you're constantly thirsty despite hydrating regularly, it could be a sign of diabetes.


Frequent Urination

open the bathroom door, go to toilet

In early diabetes, the body can increase urine production, attempting to flush out that excess blood sugar. The average person urinates between seven and eight times per day; up to ten times can be normal for some people. If you're urinating more than usual—especially if you're getting up in the middle of the night to go—tell your primary care doctor ASAP.


Excessive Hunger

woman thinking about eating a potato chip and practicing mindful eating

At the same time diabetes causes blood glucose to rise, it prevents cells from using that glucose for energy. To compensate for the lack of fuel, the body produces hunger signals. If you're constantly hungry even though you're eating regularly, it could be a warning sign of diabetes.



Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket

Because diabetes elevates blood sugar while preventing the body from using it for energy, that can make you tired. Frequent urination can also disrupt your sleep. If you're feeling constantly tired—the kind of tiredness that doesn't improve with a regular amount of sleep—it's worth a call to the doctor.


Cuts or Bruises That Won't Heal

Bandage on finger

Diabetes can make skin injuries like cuts and bruises slow to resolve. High blood sugar can stiffen blood vessels, slowing blood flow and preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to cuts and bruises to heal them. Diabetes can also impair the immune system, slowing the body's natural repair processes. 

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Blurry Vision

Tired overweight woman suffering eyestrain working on laptop at home

High levels of blood glucose pull fluid from your tissues—even the lenses of your eyes. This can affect your ability to focus, causing blurry vision. Diabetes can also cause new blood vessels to form in the retinas, damaging established vessels. If those changes progress untreated, they can lead to vision loss.

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Erectile Dysfunction


High levels of blood sugar can damage arteries throughout the body. That can cause problems in the heart, brain—and down below. Damaged blood vessels may be less efficient at transporting blood flow to the penis, causing erections that are less frequent, more difficult to achieve, or softer than normal.

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Unintentional Weight Loss

weight loss

Dropping pounds without dieting or increased exercise is the definition of too good to be true: It can signify a serious health condition like diabetes. As diabetes prevents cells from absorbing glucose from food for energy, the body may begin to burn its fat stores as fuel instead. If you're shedding pounds without trying, it's a good idea to see your doctor and ask if you should be tested for diabetes. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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