Watch for Warning Signs

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 07, 2021

When your blood sugar is out of control, you may start to have other health problems. But if you know their warning signs, you can nip them in the bud or keep them from getting worse.

Nerve Damage

This usually starts in your hands and feet. But it can also affect your stomach, bowels, bladder, genitals, heart, and other parts of your body. See your doctor right away if you get:

  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands or feet
  • Stomach problems like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • A lot of bladder infections or trouble emptying your bladder
  • Problems getting or keeping an erection
  • Dizzy or lightheaded

If you have nerve damage, you can improve or slow its progress if you keep your blood sugar levels near normal. Some supplements and medications for pain, nausea, or sexual problems can also help.

Skin Issues

Skin problems like yeast infections are a warning that your blood sugar is too high. You may notice symptoms like:

  • Itching in moist folds of your skin, such as under your breasts, between fingers and toes, or in your armpits
  • Itching, pain, or discharge in your vagina
  • For uncircumcised men, itching under the foreskin

Your doctor may prescribe medication for yeast infections, especially if you get them often.

Watch for these other skin symptoms:

  • Hair loss on your toes, feet, or lower legs
  • Brown patches of raised skin on the sides of your neck, armpit, or groin, called acanthosis nigricans

Eye Damage

The sooner you get treatment for eye problems, the better. Get help right away if you notice these warning signs:

  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble reading
  • See rings around lights or dark spots
  • Get very sensitive to sunlight and other bright light
  • Can't see well at night

Eye damage doesn't always cause symptoms, even when it's advanced. So it's important to see an eye doctor at least once a year for a thorough exam.

Emergency Warning Signs

If your blood sugar is very high over time, that could lead to more serious conditions, including a coma or even death. Call your doctor right away if you:

  • Get very tired
  • Lose weight
  • Feel hungry a lot
  • Get very thirsty and pee often

Problems Without Warning Signs

Some serious health issues linked to diabetes may not have any symptoms, such as:

With diabetes, you may not have symptoms of heart disease even if you're having a heart attack. And if you have kidney disease, there could be no warning signs until your kidneys are damaged.

Even without symptoms, though, you can catch these problems early, or make them less likely, with these steps:

  • See your doctor at least once a year.
  • Take your diabetes medication as prescribed.
  • Try to lose weight if you're overweight.
  • Eat healthy and don't skip meals.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • If you smoke, get help to quit.
  • Work with your doctor to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control.

Show Sources


American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Cataract Symptoms."

American Diabetes Association: "Skin Complications," "Eye Complications," "Eye Care," "DKA (Ketoacidosis) & Ketones," "High Blood Pressure."

CDC: "Living With Diabetes: Keep Your Feet Healthy," "Basics About Diabetes," "Diabetes Complications," "Staying Healthy with Diabetes."

Cleveland Clinic: "Preventing Diabetes Complications."

Joslin Diabetes Center: "High Glucose: What It Means and How to Treat It."

Kansas Department of Health and Environment: "Diabetes Complications."

Medline Plus: "Vaginal yeast infection."

NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders: "Diabetic Neuropathies: The Nerve Damage of Diabetes."

UCSF Diabetes Education Online: "Nerve Complications," "Skin Complications," "Hyperglycemic/Hyperosmolar States," "Kidney Complications," "Heart Disease and Stroke."

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