What are the symptoms type 2 diabetes mellitus?

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

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Type 2 diabetes is rapidly becoming of the most common long-term disease in the world. The problem causing an elevation in the blood glucose levels occurs when there is a change in the shape of the insulin receptor. In the normal situation, the body produces a small chemical called insulin (key) whose purpose is to bind to a receptor (lock) on the surface of fat and muscle cells, opening a channel to allow glucose to enter those cells. In type 2 diabetes the shape of this receptor changes mostly as a consequence of weight gain around the stomach.

What are the symptoms of diabetes mellitus?

Have you ever wondered what the symptoms of diabetes are? There are similarities across type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but there are also a few key differences too. People with all types of diabetes can, but not necessarily, have a shorter life expectancy. The presence of diabetes does not in itself lead to a shorter life, but rather having high blood sugar levels does. Having good control of sugar levels will cause a person with diabetes to live as full and healthy a life as anybody else. For this reason, it is important to understand and recognise any symptoms relating to diabetes. Diagnosing diabetes mellitus early can save your life in the short term but with proper management of the condition long term complications can be avoided too.

Diabetes is a common condition affecting more and more people every day. In 2016, diabetes was the direct cause of death in 1.6 million people (WHO, 2018) worldwide. If we consider death from diabetes related conditions, it is estimated to lead to the death 4 million people every year around the world, more than malaria, TB, and HIV combined.

In diabetes mellitus, symptoms that you experience are related to:

a) the severity of diabetes, i.e. how high your blood glucose levels are,


b) how long you have had the condition, i.e. how long you have had high blood glucose levels for.

When a person initially develops type 1 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas rapidly fail to produce adequate amounts of insulin. Since there is little insulin, blood glucose levels rise very quickly. The symptoms of diabetes happen rapidly, are severe, and people notice that they are unwell quite quickly. If a person develops type 1 diabetes slowly, then these symptoms may take months to develop but often it is weeks.

In people with type 2 diabetes, the progression of the condition happens much more slowly, over the course of several years, so the symptoms happen slowly and are often subtle. You may not even notice anything at all, or you may even dismiss them as a normal part of growing older.

By the time that you notice something isn’t quite right, you could have been experiencing high blood glucose levels for years! Often people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, have had diabetes for perhaps 5 years and borderline diabetes for many years before that.

What is the most common symptom in people with type 2 diabetes?

The most common sign of diabetes is…


That’s right. Nothing. The reason that doctors need to test for diabetes (and people need to demand it), is that most people have no idea that they have it. This regular testing is most important in people at the highest risk of developing diabetes.

If you want to learn how type 2 diabetes mellitus can affect men and women differently, we can also written dedicated artcles to answer your questions:

What are the other symptoms of diabetes?

Fatigue and irritability

Fatigue is another common type 2 diabetes symptom. You may often feel tired, regardless of how much you have eaten, because your cells are not able to use the glucose that is broken down from the food.

If you’re needing to make a lot of trips to the bathroom at night, this can also disrupt your sleep. Waking up multiple times throughout the night could mean you aren’t able to get a restful sleep, leaving you to feel tired throughout the day. This ongoing fatigue can make you easily irritable. It’s no wonder why you may be feeling more grumpy than usual!

Excessive thirst, frequent urination, and dehydration

When your blood glucose levels are high, a lot of the glucose passes into the urine. Because you lose so much glucose in your urine, it also attracts water, meaning that you are making a lot of urine, causing you to need to pee a lot! If you are going to the toilet a lot and losing a lot of urine, then you are quickly becoming dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, you become thirsty. People who feel they need to constantly drink lots of water may have diabetes and it needs to be tested for.

If a person with high sugar tries to deal with their thirst by drinking sugar containing fruit juice or soft drinks, then the blood sugar can become even higher, resulting in even more sugar in the urine, even more urine production, and worsening dehydration. It’s a vicious cycle.

What should I do next?

If you experience any symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you have type 2 diabetes risk factors, it is important to get tested for as soon as possible. Some people are at higher risk and need regular testing. If you are 45 years or older or have other risk factors for diabetes, you will require more frequent testing. By diagnosing and treating the type 2 diabetes early, it means you can decrease the risk of developing diabetes or delay type 2 diabetes complications, for example nerve damage, blindness, and heart disease. It is important to know that diagnosing type 2 diabetes should not rely solely on using a Hb A1c test.

Once you learn what your type 2 diabetes status is, or if you already have type 2 diabetes, the next most important step is to become educated. You can join the 12-week Type 2 Diabetes Program to help you learn how to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. The program is personalised and tailored, giving you more of the content that you want. The program also helps you to stay motivated and teaches you what changes you need to make. The first week is free and full of helpful and crucial information.

If you would like to be a part of a supportive program, with easy to understand video content covering all aspects of diabetes, join our personalised 12-week program today! Don't forget, when you sign up, you receive the first week free!

Interested to learn more about the other types of diabetes?

If you want to learn more about diabetes, we have dedicated information pages:

Interested in more information on type 2 diabetes?

Follow the links below to learn more about type 2 diabetes.

risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes can be referred to as modifiable or non-modifiable risk factors

Risk Factors of Type 2 Diabetes

African American male being tested for type 2 diabetes mellitus

Diagnosing Type 2 Diabetes

follow a healthy lifestyle to prevent type 2 diabetes

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

complications of diabetes infographic

Type 2 Diabetes Complications