Diabetes Symptoms Vary by Type: Here's How to Tell the Difference

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More than 11% of the U.S. population has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, but as common as this disease is, many people don't realize that it is also the nation's seventh-leading cause of death. That’s why understanding its symptoms is essential to your health and overall vitality.

“Individuals can have different experiences, but common symptoms include urinating often, feeling thirsty, feeling very hungry even after eating, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, weight loss and slow-healing cuts,” said Patricia Abernathy, a certified diabetes care and education specialist at Saint Anthony Hospital in Chicago.

But symptoms of diabetes can vary based on the type of diabetes you have.

1. Prediabetes symptoms

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Prediabetes is a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, according to the CDC.

Though prediabetes usually has no signs or symptoms, people who have it may notice darkened skin on certain body parts, according to the Mayo Clinic. The most commonly affected areas include the neck, armpits and groin.

2. Type 1 diabetes symptoms

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Type 1 diabetes, once known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, is a form of diabetes that typically emerges in children, teens and young adults, although it can occur at any age. It is less prevalent than type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC, accounting for about 5% to 10% of all diabetes cases. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association notes that the common signs of type 1 diabetes are:

  • Urinating frequently

  • Frequent thirst

  • Frequent hunger -- even though you are eating

  • Blurry vision

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Slow-healing cuts and bruises

  • Unexplained weight loss

3. Type 2 diabetes symptoms

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Development of type 2 diabetes primarily involves two main issues. First, the pancreas fails to produce sufficient insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating the entry of sugar into cells. Second, the cells respond poorly to insulin, resulting in decreased sugar absorption.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms develop slowly and can include one or more of the following:

  • Urinating frequently

  • Frequent thirst

  • Increased or frequent hunger

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Blurred vision

  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections

  • Fatigue

  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet

  • Darkened skin, most commonly in the armpits or on the neck

4. Gestational diabetes symptoms

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This form of diabetes affects pregnant women.

"Gestational diabetes is diagnosed in the second or third trimester during pregnancy for a person who did not have diabetes before the pregnancy and is related to the pregnancy,” Abernathy said. It arises from hormone shifts and the process by which the body converts food into energy.

Gestational diabetes doesn’t typically cause symptoms. But some pregnant women with it experience:

  • Frequent urination

  • Nausea

  • Thirst

  • Tiredness

5. Pay attention to the signs of diabetes

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Recognizing the signs of diabetes and promptly informing your health care provider is vital for early diagnosis and effective management. Understanding the symptoms allows for timely intervention and can prevent serious complications.

Be aware that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through simple lifestyle measures such as maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, adopting a nutritious diet and avoiding smoking, according to Harvard Health. These proactive steps can significantly reduce your type 2 diabetes risk of and protect your overall health.

6. Source and more information

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Source: Patricia Abernathy, MS, MSW, RDN, LDN, LSW, certified diabetes care and education specialist, Saint Anthony Hospital, Chicago

For more information on diabetes, check out these additional resources:

Understanding Diabetes: What It Is, Types, Symptoms & Treatments

Prediabetes: What You Need to Know About Its Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Type 1 Diabetes: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Type 2 Diabetes: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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