JDRFInformation & supportAbout type 1 diabetesSigns and symptoms of type 1 diabetes

Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes

When your blood glucose levels become too high your body will do whatever it can to try and remove the glucose from the blood. Learn the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes

The main signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

  • Going to the toilet more. Your body will try to get rid of excess glucose through urination
  • Being extremely thirsty. If you’re going to the toilet more, you’ll be very thirsty
  • Tiredness. Type 1 diabetes stops your body making the energy it needs, so you’ll be exhausted
  • Weight loss. Your body has to get energy from somewhere, so will break down fat stores
  • Fruity-smelling breath. If your body continues to operate like this, acid called ketones will build up. This will cause your breath to smell like pear drops, and can also lead to stomach pain. If ketones continue to build up in the blood they cause a potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), with can be fatal. You can read more about DKA below.

You may also experience:

  • Changes in vision
  • An increased appetite.

What should I do if I notice the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

The onset of type 1 diabetes signs and symptoms is rapid, happening over a matter of days and weeks rather than months. If you, or someone you know, are experiencing these symptoms you must go to your doctor immediately.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

If your blood glucose levels are too high for too long, it can lead to a condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is most common at diagnosis, and people with type 1 are often only diagnosed once they’ve gone into DKA. DKA can also occur when you’re ill, during a growth spurt or puberty, or if you haven’t taken your insulin.

DKA occurs when a severe lack of insulin means the body cannot use glucose for energy and starts to break down fat instead. Organic compounds called ketones are the by-product of the breakdown of fat and, if left unchecked, can build up and cause the body to become acidic.

The main symptoms of DKA include:

  • Heavy or laboured breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Stomach pains
  • Stupor or unconsciousness

What should I do?

If you are experiencing these symptoms you must go to hospital immediately. DKA is very serious, and can be fatal.

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