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Warning Signs You're Developing Diabetes, Say Experts

Watch out for these key indicators before it's too late.

So many people have diabetes—about 1.5 million are diagnosed in the United States each year, and nearly 1 in 10 Americans have it—you'd think it'd be easy to spot. But although the condition is relatively common, many people go undiagnosed because the early symptoms can be vague, easily overlooked at first, or confused with other conditions. 

Here from Eat This, Not That! Health are the first signals your body might send when you develop diabetes. Read on to learn about the new study—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


Increased Thirst

with closed eyes drinking clean mineral water close up, young woman holding glass

A very common early sign of diabetes, increased thirst happens because diabetes causes sugar (glucose) to build up in the bloodstream. Normally, the kidneys process glucose, but when they become overwhelmed, the excess glucose is flushed out with your urine. Water from other body tissues is pulled along with it, leaving you dehydrated and craving fluids to replace what you've lost.

The Rx: Experts such as Harvard Medical School advise drinking four to six cups of water per day. If you're hydrating adequately but you've noticed an uptick in thirst, talk with your doctor.


Frequent Urination

Door knob on or off the bathroom

In early diabetes, the body will increase urine production, attempting to flush out that excess blood sugar, and you might find yourself having to go more often. "It's important to know what is normal for your body," says Leigh Tracy, RD, LDN, CDE, a registered dietitian and diabetes program coordinator at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "The average individual urinates between seven and eight times per day, but for some, up to 10 times per day is normal."

The Rx: "If you are urinating more than your norm, and especially if you are waking up multiple times in the middle of the night to urinate, speak with your primary care physician right away," says Tracy. 

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Excessive Hunger

Hungry woman looking for food in fridge

Diabetes causes blood glucose to rise uncontrollably. At the same time, it prevents cells from using glucose for energy. That lack of energy can make you hungry.

The Rx: "If you notice you're constantly hungry even though you have just eaten regular meals and snacks during the day, you should speak with your doctor," says Tracy.



Depressed woman awake in the night, she is exhausted and suffering from insomnia

Because diabetes elevates blood sugar at the same time it prevents the body from using it for energy, that can make you fatigued. Frequent urination can also disrupt your sleep.

The Rx: There's a difference between tiredness and fatigue. Normal tiredness gets better after rest. But if you still feel worn out despite getting an adequate amount of sleep, it's worth discussing with your doctor. 

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Blurred Vision

woman over white with blurred vision and trouble focusing

According to the Mayo Clinic, high levels of blood glucose pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of your eyes. This can affect your ability to focus and cause 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.

The Rx: If you're experiencing any signs of diabetes such as blurred vision, it's important to see your doctor ASAP, and regularly if you're diagnosed. "Diabetes is a progressive disease, even in patients with excellent lifestyles," says Sarah Rettinger, MD, an endocrinologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. 


Cuts or Bruises That Won't Heal

Women scratch itchy arm with hand.

Diabetes can make skin injuries, such as cuts and bruises, slower to heal. 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.

The Rx: If you notice that cuts or bruises aren't healing as quickly as they have in the past, see your healthcare provider.

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Unintentional Weight Loss

weight loss

Losing weight without any changes in diet or exercise may sound great, but it's the definition of too good to be true: It can signify a serious health condition such as hyperthyroidism, cancer or diabetes. When diabetics lose glucose through frequent urination, they also lose calories. Diabetes may also keep cells from absorbing glucose from food for energy, and the body may begin to burn its fat stores as fuel instead. Both can result in weight loss.

The Rx: If you're shedding pounds without trying, see your doctor and ask if you should be tested for diabetes.

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Tingling, Pain or Numbness In Hands or Feet


Diabetes can lead to a kind of nerve damage called neuropathy, which can cause tingling or numbness in your extremities like hands or feet. This is dangerous because numbness can make cuts or injuries easier to overlook, and because diabetes can cause wounds to heal more slowly, complications can result.

The Rx: Be aware of what's going on with your body, and if you're experiencing any unusual pain, numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, see a healthcare provider without delay. 

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No Symptoms

nurse disinfecting male arm before blood

"People often have no symptoms of diabetes," says Kristine Arthur, MD, an internist at MemorialCare Medical Group in Irvine, California. "Sometimes they may notice weight gain, persistent hunger and increased fatigue associated with high insulin levels, but these symptoms can be present in other conditions, so it is important to have blood tests done to find out what is the cause."

The Rx: Have your HgbA1c (sometimes called "A1c") levels checked with a blood test every year during your routine checkup. 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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