Signs & Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) often develops suddenly and can produce varying symptoms. Read below to familiarize yourself with what you should look for.

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of T1D

Diabetes is the name given to disorders in which the body has trouble regulating its blood-glucose, or blood-sugar levels.

Signs of T1D

T1D is identified in children and adults as they show signs of the following symptoms:

Frequent urination

Increased thirst

Dry mouth

Drowsiness and lethargy

Itchy skin

Increased appetite

Fruity odour on breath

Blurred vision

Weight loss

Laboured breathing

Yeast infections

What happens in the body of a person with T1D?

People are typically diagnosed with T1D after showing symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst, exhaustion and/or malaise). As the body becomes incapable of producing insulin, which allows the body to use the sugar found in food, called glucose, as energy, people with T1D must work closely with their endocrinologists to determine the insulin doses and lifestyle changes needed to manage their blood-sugar levels.

If not treated properly, people with T1D are vulnerable to health issues ranging from minor to severe. Despite careful management, most people with T1D spend the majority of their time with blood-glucose levels outside the recommended healthy range, which can lead to potentially dangerous episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Chronic high blood sugar can also increase the risk of complications later in life, including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and nerve damage that can lead to amputations.

Types of diabetes

T1D is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas stops producing insulin—a hormone that allows the body to get energy from food. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle.

Although the signs of diabetes can begin to show early, sometimes it takes a person a while to recognize the symptoms. This often makes it seem like signs and symptoms of diabetes appear suddenly. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your body, rather than simply brushing them off. To that end, here are some symptoms of T1D that are important to address in you or your family member:

If you’re experiencing frequent urination your body might be telling you that your kidneys are trying to expel excess sugar in your blood. The resulting dehydration may then cause extreme thirst. As well, the lack of available fluids may also give you dry mouth and itchy skin.

If you experience increased hunger or unexpected weight loss it could be because your body isn’t able to get adequate energy from the food you eat.

High blood sugar levels can affect blood flow and cause nerve damage, which makes healing difficult. So having slow-healing cuts/sores is also a potential sign of diabetes.

Yeast infections may occur in men and women who have diabetes as a result of yeast feeding on glucose.

Other signs of diabetes

Pay attention if you find yourself feeling drowsy or lethargic; have pain or numbness in your extremities; experience vision changes; have fruity or sweet-smelling breath, which is one of the symptoms of high ketones; or are experiencing nausea or vomiting—as these are additional signs that something is not right. If there’s any question, see your doctor immediately to ensure that your blood sugar levels are normal and diabetes is not the cause of your feeling unwell.