Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are excessively high. The symptoms vary, but may include excessive hunger or thirst, frequent urination, extreme fatigue, neuropathy (nerve tingling), and blurry vision.

While symptoms of diabetes can seem vague, the earlier you notice them the better. Serious complications can arise when type 2 diabetes goes undiagnosed and/or untreated.

This article outlines important information about type 2 diabetes, including both common and rare symptoms, complications, and how to recognize a diabetic emergency.

Common Symptoms

While the following symptoms can have a variety of causes, diabetes is one. Any of these warrant a trip to your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

Excessive Urination

When you have abnormally high levels of glucose in your blood, your kidneys draw in water from your tissues to dilute the glucose so that your body can get rid of it through the urine. Your cells also pump fluid into the bloodstream to help flush out sugar.

But the kidneys are unable to reabsorb this fluid as they filter your blood. This can result in polyuria, or an increase in how much you pee.

To meet the clinical definition of polyuria, urine output for an adult must exceed 2.5 liters per day (normal urine output is 1.5 liters daily).

Take note if you're making more trips to the restroom or if you're staying there longer when you do.

Excessive Thirst

Excessive thirst, or polydipsia, typically goes hand-in-hand with increased urination.

As the body pulls water out of the tissues to dilute the blood and get rid of excess glucose, the urge to drink increases to replenish that fluid. Many people describe this thirst as unquenchable.

To stay hydrated, you may feel the urge to drink excessive amounts of liquids. If those liquids contain simple sugars—as soda, sweet iced tea, lemonade, and juice do, for example—your glucose level will skyrocket even higher.

Extreme Fatigue

Your body is like a car—it needs fuel to function. Glucose, which comes from the breaking down of foods that contain carbohydrates, is its primary source. Insulin, a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas, moves glucose from the blood into the cells to use for energy.

When you have diabetes, either your pancreas isn't making enough insulin or the insulin that your body is making isn't being used the way it's supposed to be used, typically because the cells become resistant to it.

The result is that your cells become deprived of glucose and you experience a lack of energy and extreme fatigue.

Excessive Hunger

Excessive hunger, also called polyphagia, is correlated with fatigue and cell starvation.

Because the cells are resistant to insulin, glucose remains in the blood. The cells are then unable to gain access to glucose, which can trigger the release of hormones that tell the brain that you are hungry.

Excessive eating can complicate things further by causing blood sugar levels to increase.

Numbness or Tingling

Diabetic neuropathy is numbness, tingling, or a feeling of "pins and needles" in the arms or legs brought on by type 2 diabetes. This symptom tends to develop gradually over time as excess sugar damages the nerves.

Keeping glucose levels within the normal range can help prevent further damage and reduce symptoms. People with severe neuropathy may require medication.

Slow-to-Heal Wounds

When the blood is thick with sugar, it may not move as freely throughout the body.

Poor circulation can make it hard for blood to reach areas that need to heal, which slows down that process. A cut or bruise that is slow to improve could be a sign of high blood sugar.

Blurry Vision

Elevated blood sugar can cause your vision to blur. It can also lead to dry eyes and make it hard to focus. This happens when fluid that is pulled into the bloodstream to dilute glucose comes from the lenses of the eyes.

It's important to have a dilated eye exam shortly after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Note, though, that damage to the eye may occur even before diabetes can be officially diagnosed.

Rare Symptoms

Some symptoms of type 2 diabetes are less common. However, they can signal the disease and are worth being aware of. These include:

  • Dry mouth (a sign of dehydration that can result from increased urination)
  • Irritability
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Skin tags
  • Frequent infections, such as yeast infections
  • Acanthosis nigricans: This condition causes dark, "velvety" patches of skin on the armpits, groin, and neck folds, and over the joints of the fingers and toes. It is an indicator of high insulin and is seen most often in African Americans.
  • Unexplained weight loss (usually associated with type 1 diabetes, but it can also occur with type 2 diabetes when there is insulin deficiency)
  • Erectile dysfunction due to years of uncontrolled blood sugar damaging nerves

Complications

Complications of diabetes develop slowly, but may become severe if the condition is untreated.

By the time someone is diagnosed with diabetes or its precursor, prediabetes, the body has been fighting high sugar and insulin levels for about 10 years. Very high blood sugar (severe hyperglycemia) can cause significant complications, including death.

Possible diabetes complications include:

When to See a Healthcare Provider

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes may occur gradually, but they should not be ignored.
While 28.7 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes, 8.5 million more are undiagnosed.

If you begin to notice any symptoms of diabetes, make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. This is especially important if diabetes runs in your family or you have other risk factors for the disease, such as being:

  • Age 45 or older
  • Diagnosed with prediabetes
  • Overweight and/or inactive
  • African American, an Alaska native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander American

When to Go to the Hospital

Illustrated human body with arrows outlining common symptoms of hyperglycemia. Text on image reads: Hyperglycemia: Common Symptoms: fatigue; blurry vision; excessive thirst; fruity breath; increased hunger; nausea and vomiting; increased urination.
Verywell

Severe hyperglycemia is a medical emergency. Get urgent medical care if you experience any symptoms related to hyperglycemia:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fruity breath
  • Sleepiness or confusion
  • Loss of vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Weakness on one side of the body

While the reverse—hypoglycemia, or very low blood sugar—is mainly associated with type 1 diabetes, it can also affect those with type 2 diabetes who take insulin or are on certain medications. It, too, is a medical emergency.

Those being treated for type 2 diabetes should be aware of symptoms of hypoglycemia, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Hunger

Without treatment, severe hypoglycemia (insulin shock) can occur, causing muscle weakness, difficulty speaking, seizures, unconsciousness, and other concerns.

Summary

Diabetes is a serious disease that can have significant consequences if it goes untreated.

If you experience any symptoms of uncontrolled blood sugar—such as excessive thirst, extreme fatigue, numbness in your arms or legs, a wound that won't heal, or even an increase in how often you pee, talk to your healthcare provider. This is especially true if you have a family history of diabetes.

A Word From Verywell

The thought of being diagnosed with diabetes can be daunting, especially because it's a disease that must be dealt with daily. But ignoring warning signs can only worsen a condition that is best managed when dealt with as early as possible.

While there is no cure for diabetes, there are effective steps you can take to keep your blood sugar in check. And many say that, with time, they almost become second nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the most common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes?

    Excessive urination, excessive thirst, excessive hunger, and extreme fatigue are the most common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes. Others include vision changes, slow-healing wounds, and tingling. 

  • What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

    There are many. A few risk factors of type 2 diabetes include a body mass index (BMI) above 25, prediabetes; high blood pressure; polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); a history of heart disease, stroke, or gestational diabetes; family history of diabetes; and African American or American Indian ethnicity.


  • How does type 2 diabetes make you feel?

    Type 2 diabetes often does not have any obvious symptoms. However, fluctuations in blood sugar can affect your energy levels and mood. High blood sugar can make you feel tired and thirsty, while a drop in blood sugar can leave you feeling shaky and weak. 

  • How can I check if I have diabetes?

    Diabetes is diagnosed through blood tests that measure your blood glucose levels. If you have symptoms for diabetes, your healthcare provider can order lab tests to check. Regular screenings are also recommended for people age 35 and up who are overweight or obese, as well as for anyone with certain risk factors.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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