Diabetes symptoms and testing

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The manner in which type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes symptoms develop can be somewhat different. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes generally develop very gradually in adults and are usually quite general. For this reason many people have diabetes long before they are diagnosed and it is estimated that around 1 million people in the UK do not know that they have the condition. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop quickly over a period of 2-3 weeks. It is important that you see your GP if you develop any of the symptoms listed below, as diabetes can damage the major organs if it is not controlled properly.

Symptoms of diabetes in adults include:

  • Feeling thirsty, even after you have had a drink
  • Needing to urinate on a regular basis, especially at night
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Unexplained weight loss

Other symptoms may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Feeling hungry on a regular basis
  • Recurring bouts of thrush

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should contact your GP. These symptoms can be managed very effectively once diabetes is treated.

Symptoms of diabetes in children

There are also certain signs and symptoms of diabetes that you should look for in children:

  • Bed-wetting
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • An unquenchable thirst
  • Difficulty with concentration

When to see your GP

You should see a GP if you notice symptoms or you start to feel unwell. It is always worth getting checked out, even if you think your symptoms are general and could be likened to some average condition. Diabetes is a serious condition so it is important that it is brought under control quickly. It also responds very well to treatment, meaning that your symptoms will ease very quickly once you are receiving the right treatment. If you are diagnosed with diabetes you will be referred to a care team, who will take care of all aspects of your care and will provide information and advice about medication, treatments, diet and exercise.

Testing for diabetes

If you have symptoms of diabetes, your GP will order tests to determine your blood glucose level. If the result is over 11 mmol/L this usually indicates diabetes. Other further tests include:

Fasting plasma glucose test

If you have minor symptoms of diabetes your GP will probably order a fasting plasma glucose test, which measures the blood glucose level after 8 hours of fasting. If the reading is over 7mmol/L it is usually indicative of diabetes, while measurements between 5.5 and 7 mmol/L are classified as impaired fasting glucose; this does not indicate type 1 diabetes, but it may be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The test is usually carried out twice to produce a more accurate result.

Random plasma glucose test

The random plasma glucose test measures the blood glucose level at a random time and should be repeated to ensure that the result is accurate.

The oral glucose tests

This test requires you to drink a glucose solution and have a blood test two hours later. Concentrations between 140 and 199 mg/dL indicate impaired glucose tolerance, while readings over 200mg/dL indicate diabetes. This test is usually carried out in the morning, as you must fast for 8 hours before the test.

An antibody test may also be carried out as type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system attacking the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.


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