7 Symptoms Never to Ignore With Type 1 Diabetes

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Diabetes type 1 is an autoimmune disorder that causes the pancreas to stop making insulin. Without natural insulin, the body’s blood glucose (sugar) levels become too high and damage the blood vessels and vital organs. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin regularly to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Even with tight management, you can experience symptoms of type 1 diabetes complications to the eyes, skin and nerves.

    If you have the following symptoms of type 1 diabetes complications, you should see your healthcare provider or call for emergency medical attention (dial 911).

  • 1
    Fruity-smelling breath
    young man checking for bad breath

    If a person with type 1 diabetes develops fruity-smelling breath, it could be a sign of a serious complication called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Other symptoms of DKA that often occur with fruity breath include cold skin, extreme thirst, weakness, and mental confusion. You can confirm DKA at home by using over-the-counter ketone strips. If the strips indicate excessive ketones, call your healthcare provider immediately. If you do not have access to ketone strips but suspect diabetic ketoacidosis, go to the nearest emergency room or dial 911.

  • 2
    Blurry vision
    Senior man at computer adjusting eyeglasses

    If sugar levels aren’t adequately controlled, you can develop type 1 diabetes eye symptoms that include blurred vision, double vision, dark floaters, white spots, trouble seeing out the corners of your eyes, and even eye pain. These symptoms can indicate a condition called diabetic retinopathy. People with type 1 diabetes should get an annual eye exam even if they have no vision symptoms. The exam can detect microscopic changes in the blood vessels of the eye that can damage the vision. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, so report any vision symptoms to your eye doctor immediately.

  • 3
    Wound on the foot
    man holding big toe and foot in pain

    People with diabetes can develop a condition called peripheral type 1 diabetic neuropathy that causes decreased sensation in the feet and is a sign of reduced blood flow to the lower limbs. Often, the first sign of diabetic neuropathy is a wound on the foot that goes unnoticed because it doesn’t hurt. People with type 1 diabetes skin symptoms like a foot wound should consult their healthcare team for an evaluation to determine if they have diabetic neuropathy. Foot sores in people with diabetes must never be ignored because they can become infected quickly and require aggressive treatment.

  • 4
    Frequent urination
    View from outside bathroom of man in flannel pants urinating in toilet

    If you have type 1 diabetes and start urinating more frequently than usual, it could be a sign your sugar levels are too high. Frequent urination is a sign of hyperglycemia, and you should check your blood glucose immediately if you’ve urinated several times over the course of a few hours. If your blood sugar is high, you should follow the treatment plan provided by your healthcare provider, which may include giving yourself additional insulin to bring the sugar levels down.

  • 5
    Weight loss even when eating more

    Excessive blood sugar levels can cause a person with type 1 diabetes to feel hungry all the time, and if someone loses weight despite eating more due to an increased appetite, this could be a sign of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels). If left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. If you have type 1 diabetes, be sure to check your blood sugar levels on the schedule recommended by your healthcare provider and follow the action plan to bring sugar levels down to normal, if necessary.

  • 6
    Frequent vaginal infections
    Woman in examination room

    Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes can cause frequent vaginal infections, since yeast thrive on the excessive sugar in the vaginal tissues. If you have type 1 diabetes and develop frequent vaginal infections, see your healthcare provider to discuss how to control your glucose levels better. By the way, excessive blood sugar levels also can cause infections of the gums or mouth (thrush). If you develop any type of recurring infection, consult your diabetes team to learn if these conditions could be related to your type 1 diabetes.

  • 7
    Loss of consciousness
    Unseen young woman on ground after seizure or fainting with older woman holding her head and hand to help

    While excessive blood sugar levels can cause serious type 1 diabetes symptoms, low blood sugar levels can cause serious complications, too. If a person with type 1 diabetes becomes confused, sluggish, has slurred speech, or loses consciousness (passes out), call 911 immediately, as these could be signs of dangerously low blood sugar levels (diabetic hypoglycemia). Never attempt to give sugary foods or beverages to an unconscious person, as this can cause choking. If the person is awake, check their blood sugar levels and give a sugary snack if the levels are low.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 25
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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