Symptoms and Risk Factors

Symptoms of Diabetes

Many symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar. With type 1 diabetes, symptoms occur more abruptly and are noticed quickly. Individuals with type 2 diabetes may have symptoms, such as feeling tired and thirsty for several years. Because the symptoms may be absent, mild or occur very gradually, these individuals often do not notify their doctors. In this case, the diabetes is discovered during a routine physical or when the person is in to see the doctor for another reason.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Need to urinate frequently
  • Weight changes
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing cuts or bruises
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Mood changes

Risk Factors

The causes of diabetes are not well known, but both heredity and environment appear to play a role in its development. The American Diabetes Association recommends that testing be done in individuals who:

  • Are 45 years of age or older
  • Are overweight
  • Have diabetes in their family
  • Are members of high risk ethnic population (Native American, Hispanic, African American, Asian)
  • Had gestational diabetes or had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have abnormal blood fat (cholesterol, triglycerides)


There are several steps people can take to reduce their risk for diabetes, the most beneficial being:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and low in animal fat

Find out if you are at risk for diabetes by taking our Diabetes Risk Assessment.

General Diabetes Statistics

Diabetes affects an estimated 21 million people in the U.S. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the American Diabetes Association, those affected include:

  • 9.7 million women (8.8 percent of all women)
  • 10.9 million men (10.5 percent of all men)
  • 176,500 people under age 20
  • 10.3 million adults over age 60
  • 3.2 million African Americans (13.3 percent of all African Americans)
  • 2.5 million Hispanic/Latino Americans (9.5 percent of all Hispanic/Latino Americans)
  • 13.1 million Caucasian Americans (8.7 percent of all Caucasian Americans)

According to the most recent statistics, diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death, and the fifth leading cause of death from disease.

FAQ about Diabetes

The diabetes statistics listed below come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Diabetes Fact Sheet for the United States, 2005.

  • Diabetes remains a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and amputations.
  • The estimated total (direct and indirect) costs of diabetes in the U.S. in 2002 was $132 billion.
  • Since 1987, the death rate due to diabetes has increased by 45 percent while the death rates due to heart disease, stroke and cancer have declined.
  • Minorities are at a greater risk for diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. After adjusting for population age differences, non-Hispanic blacks are 1.8 times more likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, while Mexican Americans — the largest Hispanic subgroup — are 1.7 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.