Symptoms and signs of diabetes

A person who has untreated diabetes is likely to complain of symptoms like feeling thirsty all the time, drinking a lot of water and passing large amounts of urine, weight loss (some patients describe a feeling of emptiness in the stomach and wanting to eat frequently), and tiredness. The person may report that at times they have felt faint or dizzy and may even have 'blacked out' (become unconscious). This can happen if the blood glucose levels fall too low to support normal brain function.

If you detect sugar in a person's urine you should suspect diabetes and refer them to the nearest higher level health facility.

If you do a urine dipstick test and find evidence of sugar, this is a strong sign of diabetes because some of the excess glucose in the blood is filtered out by the kidneys and passes into the urine.

Can you suggest another sign of diabetes, which you might be able to detect on the breath of a diabetic person?

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When the level of ketones rises in the blood of a person with diabetes, their breath has a distinctive 'fruity' smell.

Another sign of uncontrolled diabetes that has gone on for a long time is numbness in the fingers and toes, or gradual loss of vision. This is because persistently high levels of glucose damage the delicate blood vessels (capillaries) serving the extremities and the eyes, so they become starved of oxygen and nutrients and can no longer function normally.

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 July 2014, 4:37 PM