Diabetes, type 1 - Symptoms 

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes 

The main symptoms of diabetes that are common to type 1 and type 2 are:

  • feeling very thirsty
  • urinating frequently, particularly at night
  • feeling very tired
  • weight loss and loss of muscle bulk (in type 1 diabetes)

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can develop quickly, over weeks or even days. Other symptoms include:

  • itchiness around the vagina or penis, or regular bouts of thrush (a yeast infection)
  • blurred vision that is caused by the lens of your eye changing shape 
  • cramps 
  • skin infections

Vomiting or heavy, deep breathing can also occur at a later stage. This is a dangerous sign and requires immediate admission to hospital for treatment. 

Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose)

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose levels can become very low. This is known as hypoglycaemia (or a "hypo"), and happens because any insulin in your body has moved too much glucose out of your bloodstream.

In most cases, hypoglycaemia occurs as a result of taking too much insulin, although it can also develop if you skip a meal, exercise very vigorously or drink alcohol on an empty stomach.

Symptoms of a "hypo" include:

  • feeling shaky and irritable
  • sweating
  • tingling lips
  • feeling weak
  • hunger
  • nausea (feeling sick)

A hypo can be brought under control simply by eating or drinking something sugary.

If a hypo is not brought under control it can lead to confusion, slurred speech and unconsciousness. If this occurs, you will need to have an emergency injection of a hormone called glucagon. This hormone increases the glucose in your blood.

Read more about hypoglycaemia.

Hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose)

As diabetes occurs as a result of your body being unable to produce any, or enough, insulin to regulate your blood glucose, your blood glucose levels may become very high. This happens because there is no insulin to move glucose out of your bloodstream and into your cells to produce energy.

If your blood glucose levels become too high, you may experience hyperglycaemia. The symptoms of hyperglycaemia are similar to the main symptoms of diabetes, but they may come on suddenly and severely. They include:

  • extreme thirst
  • a dry mouth 
  • blurred vision
  • drowsiness
  • a need to pass urine frequently 

Left untreated, hyperglycaemia can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a serious condition where the body breaks down fat and muscle as an alternative source of energy. This leads to a build-up of acids in your blood, which can cause vomiting, dehydration, unconsciousness and even death.

Read more about hyperglycaemia.

When to seek urgent medical attention

You should seek urgent medical attention if you have diabetes and you develop:

  • a loss of appetite
  • nausea or vomiting (feeling or being sick)
  • a high temperature
  • stomach pain
  • fruity smelling breath, which may smell like pear drops or nail varnish (others will usually be able to smell it but you will not) 

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 17/07/2012

Next review due: 17/07/2014


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