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Health Journey Support | Symptoms and Complications of Diabetes

It is important to keep your diabetes under control. This brochure will help you understand the symptoms of diabetes and the complications of uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

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This information is intended for US Consumers

Symptoms and Complications of Diabetes

You or someone you know may have been diagnosed with diabetes. This handout describes what it is and why it's important to keep it under control.

Symptoms of Diabetes

People can have different symptoms with diabetes. Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling very hungry
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating often
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Weight loss (more common in type 1 diabetes)
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How Diabetes Symptoms Develop

Type 1 symptoms usually:

  • Develop suddenly
  • May be severe

Type 2 symptoms usually:

  • Develop slowly
  • May be mild
  • Some people have no symptoms

Acute Complications: Diabetes Ketoacidosis

If your high blood sugar level isn't treated, life-threatening complications can result. For example, you can become severely ill with a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It's more common in people with type 1 diabetes.

Here's how it happens. Because you have too little or no insulin in your blood, your cells can't get the sugar they need for energy.

As a result, your body turns to fats and proteins for energy.

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As your body breaks down the fats, certain substances, known as ketone bodies, build up in your blood. This results in a condition called ketosis.

If ketones build up to dangerously high levels in your blood, you may develop diabetic ketoacidosis. This may result in coma or death.

Symptoms And Complications Of Diabetes Br

Acute Complications: Hypoglycemia

If your blood sugar level drops too low, you may experience a serious complication of diabetes called hypoglycemia.

A common way this can happen is by taking too much diabetes medication or not eating.

Too much insulin or oral diabetes medication can cause too much sugar to go into your cells. Then, your blood sugar level drops down too low.

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Certain organs, such as the brain, need a constant energy supply to work properly.

Because the brain's main source of energy is sugar, it's the first organ affected by lower sugar levels.

If your blood sugar keeps dropping, your brain does not have enough energy to work properly. This can result in seizures or diabetic coma.

When your brain cells, called neurons, don't get enough sugar, they start to malfunction. Symptoms such as nervousness, shakiness and confusion can result.

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Long-term (Chronic) Complications

If your blood sugar level remains high over time, long-term health problems can occur. Complications may include:

  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Stroke
  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Amputation of foot or leg

If you have questions about diabetes or the medications for it, speak with your doctor.

It is important to take your medications as directed by your doctor. Tell him or her about any side effects you have.

The information in this handout has been created and peer reviewed by graduate-level medical illustrators, followed by reviews from medical subject experts, either physicians or PhDs on the Nucleus Medical Review Board, to ensure medical accuracy and audience level appropriateness.

The handout is intended to supplement the information you receive from your healthcare provider and should never be considered personal medical advice. Always contact your healthcare provider with health questions and concerns.