Diabetes is a disease caused by chronically high blood sugar, or glucose. That might sound relatively innocuous, but in reality, the condition can wreck your body. High sugar damages blood vessels, which can lead to serious health consequences like heart disease, stroke, dementia, blindness, and amputation. So it’s crucial to be alert to any symptoms—and they may be subtle—that may signify the onset of diabetes, so it can be managed early and health risks minimized. These are seven symptoms that can often be the first sign of diabetes.


Increased Thirst

If you’re constantly thirsty but drinking water doesn’t satisfy your thirst, that can be a sign of diabetes. The reason why: As excess blood sugar (glucose) leaves the body through urine, it pulls water from the body’s other tissues along with it. That can leave you dehydrated, which can be dangerous. “Prolonged dehydration (signified by polydipsia/excessive thirst) can lead to nausea, dizziness, headaches and fainting,” says the JDRF. “And if you do have diabetes, but have not yet been diagnosed, this dehydration has the potential to lead to diabetic ketoacidosis which can lead to organ failure, coma or death.”



Frequent Urination

Urinating several more times daily than is normal for you—particularly getting up in the middle of the night to urinate—is another common sign of diabetes. The body increases urine output to flush out excess blood sugar. That sets up a vicious cycle: It leaves you dehydrated and thirsty, so you drink more, so you urinate even more frequently.


Slow-Healing Wounds

“High blood sugar levels can affect blood flow and cause nerve damage, which makes healing difficult,” says the JDRF. “So having slow-healing cuts/sores is also a potential sign of diabetes.” Women may also experience more bladder or yeast infections, the Mayo Clinic says.



Increased Hunger

At the same time that diabetes increases glucose in the bloodstream, it also prevents cells from using that glucose for energy. Someone with diabetes may feel constantly hungry, as energy-deprived muscles demand fuel. Those feelings of hunger may not be relieved by eating.




Just as diabetes’ withholdling of glucose normally used for energy can make you hungry, it can also make you tired. “Dehydration from increased urination also can leave you feeling fatigued,” the Mayo Clinic notes.



Blurry Vision

Blurry or double vision, dark or floating spots, or pain or pressure in one or both eyes could be a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak, or abnormal new blood vessels to grow, leading to those symptoms.



Erectile Dysfunction

Believe it or not, ED is the first sign of diabetes in some men. That’s because, as high blood sugar damages arteries throughout the body, blood flow can be compromised—including to the penis. The result can be erections that are less frequent, more difficult to achieve, or softer than normal.