What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes and How to Recognize Them?

Sophia Delphi May 15, 2022 - 6 min read
Fact Checked

There’s no denying that type 2 diabetes is one of the most common forms of diabetes. In fact, according to the CDC, while 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes, approximately 90% of them suffer from type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, nearly 24% of people with diabetes go undiagnosed, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms and check with a doctor as early as possible.

Common Symptoms

Even though type 2 diabetes has a variety of symptoms, most of them are easily recognizable. From excessive thirst to delayed healing, we’re going to check these symptoms and learn more about each one of them.

Excessive Urination

Excessive urination, or polyuria, is a sudden increase in the frequency of urination due to diabetes. To put it simply, when we have extremely high levels of glucose in our blood, the kidneys tend to draw water from our tissues to dilute the glucose. The end goal is to get rid of the excess glucose through urination. However, since our cells also pump fluid into the bloodstream to get rid of the sugar, our kidneys can’t reabsorb that fluid during filtering, which results in excess urination.

In order to be diagnosed with polyuria, the urine output for an adult must exceed 2.5 liters per day. In contrast, normal urine output is 1.5 liters per day, so the difference should be pretty noticeable. Besides visiting the bathroom more often, you might notice that you’re staying there for longer too.

Extreme Fatigue

It’s no mystery that your body needs fuel to function, and that’s where glucose comes in! The compound called glucose is broken down from foods containing carbohydrates and is moved from our blood into the cells to use for energy. But that process requires insulin, a hormone procured by the beta cells of our pancreas.

When somebody suffers from diabetes, two things may prevent the process of glucose absorption. On the one hand, the pancreas can become unable to produce enough insulin. On the other hand, the already produced insulin can’t be used the way it should be, mainly because the cells have become resistant to it. But no matter which of these occurs, the result is the same — the cells become deprived of glucose, and you will experience extreme fatigue due to the lack of fuel.

Excessive Thirst

Generally speaking, excessive urination can cause another symptom — excessive thirst. More specifically, as the body uses water from our tissues to dilute the blood, the need to drink increases. Most people dealing with type 2 diabetes describe that feeling as an unquenchable thirst that doesn’t go away no matter what.

It’s important to mention that, due to thirst, you might be tempted to drink excessive amounts of liquid. And while drinking water isn’t a bad thing, liquids that contain simple sugars like lemonade, soda, and juice should be avoided. Why? Because drinking them will increase your glucose levels even higher, leading to more thirst and urination.

Excessive Hunger

More often than not, excessive hunger is a result of fatigue and cell starvation. In other words, since the cells are resistant to insulin, glucose remains in the blood. Since cells can’t get enough glucose, the body triggers the release of hormones to tell the brain that it needs more food, leading to excessive hunger. However, excessive eating is not a solution and can make things even worse by drastically increasing blood sugar levels.

Nerve Tingling

Diabetic neuropathy is described as numbness, tingling, or a feeling similar to pins and needles in the legs or arms. This symptom develops gradually over time as a result of the damage that excess sugar does to nerves. But keeping glucose levels in check can prevent further nerve damage and eventually reduce its symptoms.

It’s also worth noting that people with severe neuropathy may require medication to deal with this annoying symptom.

Blurry Vision

High blood sugar levels can cause blurred vision, which is extremely common for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. As a matter of fact, damage to the eye can occur even before an official diagnosis of diabetes. Additionally, the fluid that gets pulled from the cells to dilute glucose can also get removed from the lenses of the eyes. When that happens, the eyes become dry and are unable to focus, leading to blurry vision. That’s why getting a dilated eye exam right after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is essential!

Delayed Healing of Cuts and Bruises

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the healing process of cuts and bruises requires adequate circulation. Sadly, if you suffer from type 2 diabetes, your blood is thick with sugar, preventing it from moving easily throughout the body. As a result, blood can’t reach the affected areas in a timely manner, which slows down the healing process. So, if you notice that cuts or bruises take longer to heal, you could be dealing with high levels of blood sugar or even type 2 diabetes.

Rare Symptoms

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, there are additional symptoms that you can experience. And even though they are pretty rare, they can help you recognize the disease and get a more accurate diagnosis early on.

  • Skin tags
  • Irritability
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent infections, like yeast infections
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Unexplained weight loss, which is a sign of insulin deficiency due to diabetes
  • Dark patches of skin, called Acanthosis nigricans, usually found on the groin, armpits, neck folds, and over the joints of your toes and fingers (these indicate high insulin levels and are more common amongst African Americans)


Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes can cause a variety of complications, some more severe than others. Besides the usual symptoms of diabetes, they can serve to aid you in diagnosing the disease. However, while they develop slowly, these complications can become deadly if ignored, so always get medical help if you notice any of the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Eye damage
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Kidney damage
  • Foot problems due to insufficient blood flow and nerve damage

Risk Factors

Although it is extremely important to know the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, understanding the risk factors is just as important. That way, you will know exactly what changes you need to make in order to reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. So, let’s check them out:

  • Age 45 or older
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Family history
  • Previous strokes or a history of heart disease
  • A body mass index above 25
  • Prediabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Low HDL cholesterol levels
  • Previous gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby that weighs 9 pounds or more

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, getting diagnosed with diabetes can be quite a shock, especially since you need to deal with it daily. Yet, type 2 diabetes is a manageable disease that you can keep in check pretty easily. With lifestyle modifications, like healthy eating and exercise, you can get blood sugar levels below the diabetes threshold. And, by knowing all of its symptoms and complications, you can get help faster, allowing you to control diabetes instead of letting it control your life.