What are the signs of type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes usually develops quickly, and often early in life (rarely, it can be present from birth) so is often diagnosed in children. You may suddenly start to notice symptoms in yourself, your child or someone you know such as:

Excessive urination (to remove excess glucose)

Extreme thirst (resulting from urination)

Muscle cramps (due to dehydration (loss of fluid) which causes an imbalance of electrolytes – things like salt and potassium in the blood)

Rapid weight loss (when the cells aren’t getting glucose, fat gets used as an energy source)

Tiredness and fatigue (because energy from glucose isn’t reaching the body cells)

Thrush/genital itching, yeast infection (glucose in the urine provides a breeding ground for fungus or bacteria)

Blurry vision (due to high sugar levels in the fluid of the eye, and rarely, damage to the eye’s blood vessels)

Sweet or fruity-smelling breath (due to acids which are released when non-glucose energy sources are used)

Diagnostic tests

An initial type 1 diabetes test can be a random blood glucose test or a simple urine test – urine doesn’t normally contain glucose unless you have diabetes. If the blood test value is above normal and you have symptoms, type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed.  If you do not have symptoms and your urine blood glucose level or blood glucose level is high, these tests are usually followed up with a blood test that would be taken either before breakfast to get a “fasting” blood glucose value or two hours after a meal. 

Table outlining typical type 1 diabetes test results vs normal results

Follow-up blood tests will measure HbA1c levels, which provide average blood glucose levels for the previous 
2–3 months and can be done at any time of the day.


What now?

There may not have been any clear warning signs before you or your child were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, so it may have come as a shock. The best thing you can do to take control of the situation is to learn as much as possible about type 1 diabetes, the treatment options, and how it can affect daily life and consult your doctor or nurse for further information and advice.

The more you know, the more equipped you will be to deal with any challenges ahead and effectively manage blood glucose levels. The pages in this section give an overview of the different aspects of diabetes management.

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