Fatigue, increased thirst and hunger, and unexplained weight loss are all symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Here, real people share what diabetes symptoms feel like.

Rachel Martin
September 28, 2018

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Many people experience "classic" diabetes symptoms (such as increased thirst and blurred vision) before being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But what do these symptoms really feel like?

In the slides that follow, people with type 2 diabetes share how they felt just before being diagnosed. Fred A. Williams Jr., M.D., FACP, FACE, explains why these symptoms occur.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of diabetes, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Diabetes Symptom: Fatigue

How It Feels
"During the course of one week's time, I became a different person. I felt all types of odd things that I did not recognize: mind fog, tired, fatigue, unable to walk a short distance without feeling like I absolutely had to sit down or lie down. It was like my body just no longer worked and all systems were shutting down."
Gloria, type 2 since 1997
Corpus Christi, Texas

"Before I was diagnosed, I noticed that I was always so tired. My vision began to get really blurry, too. I seemed to want to sleep all the time, and drank a lot. I just knew something wasn't right with me. I seemed to not be able to even find the energy to go to the grocery store. When I did go shopping, I'd come home and just want to sleep."
BingoDreamer (submitted online)

"I was always tired, no matter how much I slept."
Pam, type 2 since 2007
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Why You Might Feel Fatigued

"[Fatique] is a very common symptom that is associated with the body's inability to properly utilize the glucose for fuel, which the body needs for everything to work correctly -- brain, muscles, heart, etc.," Williams says. "The lack of efficient energy production causes fatigue."

Diabetes Symptom: Blurred Vision

How It Feels
"My eyes became blurry one afternoon at my library desk. I called my doctor and he said to come in right after work."
Breifjager (submitted online)

Why Your Vision Might Be Blurred

"Blurred vision is a result of a change in the glucose levels in the fluids of the eye," Williams says. "Blurred vision is a symptom of uncontrolled diabetes but can also occur as treatment is begun and the glucose levels are lowered." In that case, the blurred vision is temporary and corrects itself.

Diabetes Symptom: Increased Thirst and Frequent Urination

How It Feels
"I was having dizziness, very thirsty, urinating a lot, and at the time I was working a job with a lot of stress. I never thought of diabetes until my doctor mentioned it."
GidgetJan (submitted online)

"The first symptoms I noticed were frequent trips to the bathroom at night and not feeling well a lot of the time."
Joyce, type 2 since 2002
Alexandria, New Hampshire

"I was thirsty all the time."
Independence, Missouri

"I am not the one with diabetes, but I cook for my husband who does. He began by noticing an urgency to go bathroom. The family noticed that he became extremely irritable, which was not typical of his generally easygoing personality."
Sharon, spouse of a PWD type 2, diagnosed in 2005
Laguna Beach, California

"Frequent urination, excess fatigue that hit after large meals, and thirst. My spouse nagged at me for almost two years to be tested."
Catherine (submitted online)

Why You Might Have Increased Thirst and Urination

"Frequent urination is caused by the kidney's attempt to lower the elevated blood glucose levels by excreting the excess in the urine," Williams says. "This increased flow of urine results in significant loss of body fluid; this results in the signaling of the thirst center in the hypothalamus of the brain to get the patient to drink more water."

"Irritability can occur but is very difficult to localize to a specific factor," Williams says. "Humans tend to be more irritable anytime the body's delicate physiology and equilibrium is disturbed through disease such as diabetes."

Diabetes Symptom: Increased Hunger and Weight Loss

How It Feels
"I wasn't paying attention to myself but knew I wasn't feeling my best. When my little boy and I came home from the hospital, I noticed that I was tired, had blurry vision, and I had lost 15 pounds in only three months … all while eating hospital food. Red flag for sure!"
Sherry, type 1.5 since 2005
Brentwood, Tennessee

"I was eating and losing weight. I seemed to be thirsty more often."
Amy, type 2 since 1993
Madison, Wisconsin

"I lost a lot of weight very rapidly. It was quite scary because the doctors did not know what was wrong for quite a while."
Carla, type 2 since 2006
Tulalip, Washington

"In 1999, I was working on two of my children's weddings. At first I thought the fatigue and hunger was related to that. Then I realized, I was drinking a LOT of fluids and was constantly hungry."
Carole, type 2 since 1999
Sacramento, California

Why You Might Be Hungrier and Losing Weight

"Weight loss most often occurs in the setting of type 1 diabetes," Williams says. But people with type 2 can also experience this symptom. "The lack of insulin results in the body's loss of fat and sometimes muscle tissue [and fluid]. Hunger can occur when this loss of body mass stimulates a hunger center in the hypothalamus. The person will want to eat to replace this lost body mass, but of course the lack of insulin prevents this from occurring and the process continues."

Diabetes Symptom: Frequent and/or Slow-Healing Infections

How It Feels
"When I developed extreme fatigue, frequent bladder infections, and kidney stones, [my doctor] ran several tests and then diagnosed diabetes."
Tina, type 2 since 1996
Decatur, Illinois

"I had a vaginal (topical) infection that would not heal. I felt terrible. Today, I feel great!"
Gayla, type 2 since 2006
Fleischmanns, New York

"I felt terrible. I was tired all the time, running to the bathroom constantly, thirsty all the time, sores that took a long time to heal."
Parendt (submitted online)

"Both of my parents had type 2 diabetes. I had problems losing weight, feeling tired. Sometimes healing slowly was an issue. I knew what to look for, because I had helped with my parents."
Pat, type 2 since 2008
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

"Vaginal odor was the reason I had my doctor check me for sugar. I had tried everything to get rid of the condition. When my fasting results returned, my blood sugar was 290 and my A1C was 10.4 percent. What a surprise!"
Linda, type 2 since 2005
Ashland, Kentucky

Why You Might Be Getting Infections and Healing Slowly

"Slow healing can occur due to several factors," Williams says. "First of all, high blood sugars prevent the infection-fighting cells of the body from working properly. Second, some people with diabetes have poor circulation where the tissues aren't supplied with enough blood to allow normal healing to occur."

"Dental disease definitely occurs more frequently with poorly controlled diabetes," Williams says. "This is due to the elevated glucose levels causing more decay in the enamel and more infections around the gum line (periodontal infection). Over a long period of time, uncontrolled diabetes can result in bone loss in the jaws, which can then result in premature loss of teeth."

Diabetes Symptom: Unusual Sweating, Dizziness, and Other Symptoms

How It Feels
"First symptoms were dizziness, unbalanced feeling while walking, hot and sweating, ear pain, and eventually vomiting. I felt confused because I could not understand what could cause all these physical problems at the same time. Then I got angry because my blood sugar was 333. I feel much better now that I know why I had the symptoms."
Judy, type 2 since 2006
Crete, Illinois

"What made me go the doctor was unusual sweating, extremely dry mouth, dizziness, and what was really odd, my teeth starting falling apart. I am not sure whether that was connected."
Lauren, type 2

"All the symptoms [my doctor] described could have been for other obvious reasons. Hot flashes: I'm 52 -- duh. Excessive thirst: I work in a closed environment [that's] hot and sticky, so, thirsty. Tired: I work two jobs -- yeah, tired. Sugar level over 400. I'm coming to terms with it now and finding out all of the ins and outs that I can."
Renie, type 2 since 2008
Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania

Why You Might Be Sweating or Feeling Dizzy

"[Sweating and dizziness] are less common symptoms caused by changes in the blood's viscosity (thickness) when glucose levels increase and the flow through little capillaries throughout the body is impaired," Williams says. "Also, fluid losses can cause a decrease in blood pressure, which in turn can result in the dizziness and sweatiness."

When a Diagnosis Means Relief

Some people we talked to were relieved to be diagnosed with diabetes because it meant there was a reason they were experiencing such strange symptoms.

"Glad to know there was a reason I felt bad. I didn't know how sick I was till I got better."
MSTKWalters (submitted online)

"Relief, now I know what's happening to me."
Barrie, type 2 since 1993
Brooklyn, New York

"After being diagnosed, I was actually relieved to finally treat the problem. I feel great now and am very diligent in my diabetes management."
Carla, type 2 since 2006
Tulalip, Washington

If you or someone you know experiences the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, contact your health-care provider. Symptoms include:

  • increased thirst
  • increased hunger
  • weight loss
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue
  • frequent urination, particularly at night
  • frequent infections and/or slow-healing cuts or sores