What Are the First Signs of Being a Diabetic?

Reviewed on 5/6/2022
Obese man sitting on a couch and eating potato chips
The first diabetes symptoms you may experience can include increased thirst (polydipsia), increased urination (polyuria), and increased hunger (polyphagia). 

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body produces insufficient or no insulin, or it doesn’t use insulin properly causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise (hyperglycemia). A hormone called insulin is produced in the pancreas that helps convert glucose from the food you eat into energy the body uses.

The three main types of diabetes include: 

  • Type 1 diabetes (previously called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes) is an autoimmune condition in which little to no insulin is produced by the pancreas
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in which the body doesn’t use insulin properly causing blood sugar levels to rise
  • Gestational diabetes occurs because pregnancy increases the body's need for insulin, but the body is unable to produce enough

The first signs of being a diabetic include: 

  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Increased hunger (polyphagia)

Other early signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores/cuts/bruises that do not heal
  • Frequent infections
  • Darkened skin, often in the armpits and neck
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet or hands (more common in type 2)
  • Unexplained weight loss (more common in type 1)

What Causes Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the body attacks itself and destroys beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is not caused by diet or lifestyle factors.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by several factors, including: 

The cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, and it is difficult to predict which women will develop the condition when they become pregnant

What Is the Treatment for Diabetes?

People who are dianogsed with diabetes typically will have to make some lifestyle modifications and take medications when needed in order to treat diabetes and manage symptoms. 

Lifestyle changes to manage diabetes include:

  • Check blood glucose levels daily
  • Manage A1C (average blood glucose level over the past 3 months)
  • Take prescribed diabetes medications 
  • Follow a diabetes meal plan as recommended by your doctor or nutritionist
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
  • Manage blood pressure 
  • Get regular exercise
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Manage stress 

Medications most commonly used to treat diabetes include: 

  • Insulin 
  • GLP-1 receptor agonists 
  • Meglitinides 
  • SGLT2 inhibitors 
  • Sulfonylureas 
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors 
  • Amylin analog 
  • Biguanides 
  • Dopamine receptor agonists 
  • Bile acid sequestrants 
  • DPP- 4 Inhibitors 
  • Thiazolidinediones 
  • Combination medicines, which may be made up of more than one medication in the above classes
  • Women with gestational diabetes may need insulin or metformin 

If lifestyle changes and medications do not work to manage diabetes, other treatments may include: 

  • Weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) for some patients who are obese
  • Artificial pancreas 


Diabetes: What Raises and Lowers Your Blood Sugar Level? See Slideshow

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Reviewed on 5/6/2022
Image Source: iStock Images