Understanding diabetes Symptoms

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Did you know that one in eleven people worldwide has diabetes? Of those, almost 50 percent remain undiagnosed.(1) Your family might be affected as well – but you are not aware of it yet. However, it is vital to discover this chronic condition as early as possible to prevent long-term consequences.

Type 1 or type 2

Yes, there are (many) different types of diabetes. The big ones are type 1 and type 2. People with the type 1 are unable to produce insulin as a result of an autoimmune reaction which destroys insulin-producing cells. Type 2 diabetes on the other hand develops slowly. The body does not react to insulin properly anymore and it becomes worse until it is totally immune to it. The good news: If you follow a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and exercise, the progress of the disease can be delayed significantly.

How to spot diabetes

This year’s topic of the IDF’s World Diabetes Day is “Diabetes concerns every family”. The main focus is on detecting and handling the disease. Therefore, we would like to share the most common symptoms with you. Take a closer look and be realistic: Check yourself and your family for the symptoms below.(2) And remember that this list is not complete.

If you already know a lot about diabetes, feel free to take this "Discover Diabetes Quiz" from the International Diabetes Federation and see how well you do.


Description Document Link
Infosheet Warning Signs World Diabetes Day 2018
pdf (34.8 KB)

Take a closer look

Even though many symptoms of type 1 and 2 diabetes are rather similar, they differ in some respects. An important difference is that the symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop over time: They are initially rather mild and seem to be harmless, but then they worsen significantly over the long term. So be aware of the risk factors: age, weight, waist-to-hip ratio, lifestyle, blood pressure and blood sugar.


One causes the other

Many of the above signs are interrelated. You might, for example, feel the need to go to the bathroom more often than usual. The body is trying to get rid of the surplus blood sugar via the urine. This frequent urination in turn induces an abnormal thirst, which is common for type 1 diabetes. In the case of type 2, the feeling is even stronger: While you may initially just drink one extra glass of water, you feel like you are dying of thirst when the diabetes is at a more advanced stage.

Tired and exhausted

If you feel the need to nap or go to bed a lot earlier than usual, this can be an indication for diabetes as well. Constant tiredness and extreme difficulty getting out of bed in the morning may also be signs of type 2 diabetes. Fatigue occurs for various reasons, one of which may be dehydration. However, the fact that the body is not working normally can cause tiredness as well. 

Vision problems

The high concentration of sugar also causes blurred vision; you might not see details anymore because of swelling in your eyes. And the constant urination is one of the factors that causes dehydration, which leads to dry eyes – another reason for blurry eye sight.

Losing weight while eating a lot

Sudden weight loss is a clear indication of type 1 diabetes. As soon as the autoimmune reaction leads to the destruction of insulin-producing cells, the sugar in the blood cannot be used to retrieve energy anymore. As a result, your body starts burning fat and muscles to keep going. This also triggers a constant feeling of hunger.

Weak immune system

Whether it is athlete’s foot or a bladder infection: With type 2 diabetes, you are more prone to such problems because your high blood sugar level impairs your body’s ability to fight infections. The diabetes weakens the immune system over time. This and a poor blood circulation in the skin causes wounds to heal more slowly.

Found something?

When going through the above symptoms, did you discover that you or someone in your family has one or more of them? First rule: Keep calm. But make an appointment with your physician soon and have your blood sugar checked. Better be safe!


(1) International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 8th edition, 2017.

(2) International Diabetes Federation: https://www.worlddiabetesday.org/discover (07.11.2018)