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 they can seem vague, the earlier you notice them the better, as serious complications can arise when type 2 diabetes goes undiagnosed and treated.

Are You At Risk?

More than 30 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. However, nearly 24% (approximately 7.2 million people) of people with the condition are undiagnosed,so it's important to be aware of the symptoms, especially if you:

  • Are over 45
  • Have been diagnosed with prediabetes
  • Are overweight and/or inactive
  • Are African American, an Alaska native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander American and are experiencing atypical symptoms

Common Symptoms

Knowing the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes can give you a jumpstart on noticing any you might develop. This way you can see your primary care doctor as soon as possible.

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

Polyuria (Excessive Urination)
Polyuria
is an increase in the frequency of 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 will also pump fluid into the bloodstream to help flush out sugar; the kidneys are unable to reabsorb this fluid during filtering, which results in excess urination.

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 per day). Note if you're visiting the restroom far more often than usual and if you're staying there longer when you do.

Polydipsia (Excessive Thirst)
Excessive thirst 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. 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 (such as soda, sweet iced tea, lemonade, or juice, for example) your glucose level will skyrocket even higher.

Extreme Fatigue
Your body is like a car—it needs fuel to function. The body's primary source of fuel is glucose, which is broken down from foods that contain carbohydrates. 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: Your cells become deprived of glucose and you experience a lack of energy and extreme fatigue.

Polyphagia (Excessive Hunger)
Excessive hunger 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.

Neuropathy (Nerve Tingling)
Numbness, tingling, or a feeling of "pins and needles" in the arms or legs brought on by type 2 diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. 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.

Cuts and Bruises That are Slow to Heal
When the blood is thick with sugar, it may not move as freely throughout the body. Adequate circulation is required for healing: Poor circulation can make it hard for blood to reach affected areas, slowing down the healing process. A cut or bruise that is slow to improve could be a sign of high blood sugar.

Blurry Vision
Blurred vision can result from elevated blood sugar. Similarly, fluid that is pulled from the cells into the bloodstream to dilute glucose can also be pulled from the lenses of the eyes, causing them to become excessively dry and unable to focus. It's important to have a dilated eye exam shortly after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Damage to the eye may occur even before a diagnosis of diabetes exists.

Rare Symptoms

Although the less common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are not experienced by everyone, they can signal the disease and are worth being aware of:

  • 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—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 (after years of high blood sugar)

Complications

Complications of diabetes develop slowly, but may become severe if the condition is untreated. By the time someone is diagnosed with diabetes or prediabtes the body has been fighting high sugar and insulin levels for about 10 years.

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Foot problems caused by insufficient blood flow and nerve damage, sometimes severe enough to warrant amputation
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Eye damage (retinopathy)
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy)

When to See a Doctor

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes may occur gradually, but they should not be ignored. If you begin to notice any of them, make an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible.

If you're diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they can connect you with a certified diabetes educator and provide guidance for receiving diabetes self-management education. You also can get this help from the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. These services often are covered by insurance; check your provider for details about your plan.

When to Go to the Hospital

Both very high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, and very low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can be considered a medical emergency.

Hyperglycemia

If diabetes is left untreated and blood glucose levels become too high, serious complications can occur, such as hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS), sometimes referred to as diabetic coma, or diabetic ketoacidosis. Get urgent medical care if you experience any symptoms related to hyperglycemia:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Warm, dry skin that does not sweat
  • High fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Sleepiness or confusion
  • Loss of vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Weakness on one side of the body

Hypoglycemia

If blood sugar levels dip too low, you may experience any or all of the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Hunger

Have a food or beverage that contains sugar immediately and consider getting urgent medical care.

A Word From Verywell

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be unsettling, especially given it's a disease that must be dealt with daily. However, it's manageable and whatever steps you need to take will become second nature. Learning all you can about the condition will help as well. For some people, lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise can actually get blood sugars below the diabetes threshold. You can control your diabetes and not let it control you.

Was this page helpful?
Article 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes statistic report. February 24, 2018.

  2. NIH. MedlinePlus. Urine - excessive amount. Novermber 6, 2019.

  3. American Diabetes Association. Complications. 1995-2019.