Over 30 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and the numbers continue to rise. 

However, many people do not know the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes. 

The condition is often mistaken for other ailments for months or even years before a proper diagnosis is made.

This article will outline the top five signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes and what you need to look out for if you think you might have it. 

Image of a doctor meeting with a patient and taking notes.

What is the first warning sign of type 2 diabetes?

The problem with type 2 diabetes is that sometimes the symptoms are very subtle. Some people may not experience any symptoms at all! 

However, if you’re experiencing the following symptoms, it might mean that you’ve developed type 2 diabetes. 

Call your doctor immediately if you’ve had symptoms for several weeks or months that are not improving. 

Common symptoms of diabetes include: 

  • Extreme thirst 
  • Frequent urination (especially at night) 
  • Weight loss
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Recurrent infections and slow-healing infections
  • Numbness in the feet 
  • Extreme fatigue and lethargy 
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Tingling hands or feet
  • Blurry vision/changes to your vision
  • Hunger
  • Dry hands or feet 

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes? 

It is important to know if you’re at higher risk for developing diabetes, especially because not everyone has obvious symptoms. 

The risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Have prediabetes
  • Previously had gestational diabetes
  • Previously gave birth to a baby who was over nine pounds at birth 
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are over 45 years old 
  • Have a direct family member with type 2 diabetes
  • Live a sedentary lifestyle 
  • Are an African American, Hispanic, Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, or Asian American 
  • Have a history of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease 

What is type 2 diabetes sometimes mistaken for?

Type 2 diabetes can be mistaken for many other conditions. 

People who go to the doctor with classic diabetes symptoms have been diagnosed with the following:

  • Influenza
  • The common cold
  • Dehydration
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 
  • Depression
  • A viral infection 

If you have persistent symptoms of diabetes, but your doctor thinks you may have another condition, be firm and ask for a blood sugar test

Many times, cases of type 2 diabetes are missed because no blood sugar test is ever done for a patient. 

What are the top five signs of type 2 diabetes? 

Different people may experience different symptoms of type 2 diabetes. 

The top five signs of type 2 diabetes are the following:

Extreme thirst 

Due to high blood sugar levels, people with undiagnosed diabetes will experience extreme thirst or polydipsia

People with undiagnosed diabetes may drink up to 6 liters of liquid per day and still be thirsty. 

When people drink sugar-sweetened beverages, it makes their blood sugar even higher which leads to more thirst. 

You may have undiagnosed diabetes if you have excessive thirst and drinking water is not helping.

Frequent urination

Frequent urination, also known as polyuria, is a common sign of undiagnosed diabetes. 

People with undiagnosed diabetes will urinate more overnight, often multiple times per night. 

The National Library of Medicine considers frequent urination the production of more than 2.5 liters of urine within a 24-hour period. 

However, some people with undiagnosed diabetes may urinate up to 15 liters of urine per day. 

Call your doctor if you’re frequently urinating and it’s affecting your quality of life. 

Weight loss 

Unexplained weight loss is a common symptom of type 2 diabetes, sometimes despite increased hunger. 

This weight loss can be sudden and drastic. Some people lose multiple pounds per week, even without decreasing their calorie intake. 

This weight loss is a result of chronically-high blood sugar levels and is dangerous. 

Call your doctor if you’ve noticed sudden, unexplained, and drastic weight loss. 


Feeling tired from time to time is normal, but excessive lethargy can be a top sign of undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. 

This is usually a result of prolonged high blood sugar levels. 

Sleeping more than usual, feeling extremely tired, and even having trouble sitting up and working for more than a few days can be a sign that something is seriously wrong. 

Call your doctor if you are experiencing lethargy in addition to other signs of type 2 diabetes. They can administer a blood sugar test. 

Slow-healing wounds or infections 

Slow-healing wounds and recurring infections are common symptoms of type 2 diabetes. 

This is especially true for wounds in the extremities, like the feet. 

This is a sign of poor circulation, which is a complication of living with high blood sugar levels, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. 

Call your doctor if you have an open wound that is healing slowly or looks infected. 

Always wear quality, clean socks and good-fitting shoes if you live with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. 

Never walk around outside barefoot. This will decrease your risk of foot infections and stubborn, slow-healing wounds. 

Can I prevent type 2 diabetes?

Yes! There are several strategies that can help you prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Mainly losing weight if you’re overweight or obese and becoming more physically active. 

Increase your activity to at least 150 minutes per week. This is an effective way to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. 

The National Diabetes Prevention Program is an evidence-based lifestyle change program that works with people at risk for type 2 diabetes to prevent or delay the onset of the disease. 

This program has a focus on everyday habits that may help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Some additional evidenced-based ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Lose 5-7% of your body weight if you’re overweight or obese.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, or aim for 30 minutes most days of the week. 
  • Eat smaller portions and replace sugar-sweetened beverages with water. 

Can type 2 diabetes be cured?

Although there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, it can sometimes be reversed through dietary changes and weight loss. 

This means that you may be able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels without medication. 

However, if you return to unhealthy habits, your symptoms of type 2 diabetes—and your need for diabetes medications—will likely return.

I’ve been having type 2 diabetes symptoms for a few weeks. What should I do? 

Call your doctor if:

  • You’re experiencing one or more symptoms of type 2 diabetes. 
  • You are at high risk for the condition.
  • Your symptoms are not getting better or they’re getting worse after several weeks.

Your doctor can administer a blood sugar test to rule out diabetes. 

Let your doctor know if you ever don’t feel like yourself—even if you’re only experiencing one symptom of diabetes. It is best to play it safe and share your concerns with your doctor.