Diabetes : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

High blood levels of glucose can cause several problems, including:

  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss

However, because type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people with high blood sugar experience no symptoms at all.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss in spite of increased appetite

Patients with type 1 diabetes usually develop symptoms over a short period of time. The condition is often diagnosed in an emergency setting.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

Diagnosis & Tests

A urine analysis may be used to look for glucose and ketones from the breakdown of fat. However, a urine test alone does not diagnose diabetes.

The following blood tests are used to diagnose diabetes:

  • Fasting blood glucose level — diabetes is diagnosed if higher than 126 mg/dL on two occasions. Levels between 100 and 126 mg/dL are referred to as impaired fasting glucose or prediabetes. These levels are considered to be risk factors for type 2 diabetes and its complications.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test — diabetes is diagnosed if glucose level is higher than 200 mg/dL after 2 hours. (This test is used more for type 2 diabetes.)
  • Random (non-fasting) blood glucose level — diabetes is suspected if higher than 200 mg/dL and accompanied by the classic diabetes symptoms of increased thirst, urination, and fatigue. (This test must be confirmed with a fasting blood glucose test.)

Persons with diabetes need to have their hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) level checked every 3 – 6 months. The HbA1c is a measure of average blood glucose during the previous 2 – 3 months. It is a very helpful way to determine how well treatment is working.


Review Date : 5/20/2009
Reviewed By : Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. Also reviewed by Deborah Wexler, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Endocrinologist, Massachusetts General Hospital.

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