The Signs of Diabetes

Natalie Stein
September 27, 2018
The Signs of Diabetes

Early Signs of Diabetes

Why are diabetes symptoms so important? Consider these facts.

  • Most people with prediabetes will get diabetes within 5 to 10 years if they do not take steps to prevent it.
  • Most people with diabetes are likely to develop complications if they do not manage it well.

Diabetes is among the most common chronic conditions in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reports that in 2020, about 1 in 11, or 34.2 million, adults had diabetes, and that included 12 million, or 1 in 4, adults 65 or older. Another 88 million, or 1 in 3 adults, had prediabetes, including nearly half of older adults. 

The good news is that you can lower your risk for diabetes if you have prediabetes, and lower your risk for diabetes complications if you have it. 

Many of the symptoms of diabetes are the same in men and women. Being familiar with both the symptoms common to both men and women can help you recognize if you may have diabetes or prediabetes. 

If you have diabetes symptoms, you can get medical help to see whether you have diabetes, and if so, to get help managing your diabetes and preventing complications. The earlier you get help, the better you can manage your condition to stay healthy. Taking charge early means you can work on practicing self-management strategies, such as eating right, testing your blood sugar, and getting active. Early action also gives you the chance to test tools, such as Lark Diabetes, that can help you make these healthy behaviors into lifelong habits. 

What Is Diabetes, and Why Does It Happen?

In the normal case, your blood glucose levels rise after a meal as your body processes the carbohydrates and other nutrients in it. The increase in your blood sugar levels triggers your pancreas to release a hormone called insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin helps lower your blood sugar levels back down by allowing the extra glucose to get into the cells of your body that need it for energy, and storing the rest as fat.

How Does Diabetes Happen?

Diabetes is a condition that happens when your blood sugar, or blood glucose, levels are too high. It can happen when:

  • Your pancreas do not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes).
  • The cells of your body are resistant to the effects of insulin (type 2 diabetes).
  • Your body does not produce enough insulin to keep up with your body’s demand (type 2 diabetes).

Types of Diabetes

The types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, your pancreas can no longer produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, which includes 90 to 95% of cases, your body’s cells are more resistant to insulin’s effects. 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks and destroys beta cells, which are the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. The causes of type 1 diabetes are unknown. There is probably a genetic factor, and usually there is an environmental trigger, such as a viral infection. Type 1 diabetes most commonly appears during childhood or adolescence.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is linked to insulin resistance in the cells of your body. Excessive amounts of blood glucose create an increasingly higher demand for insulin. Eventually, the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep up with demand, and blood sugar levels rise (known as insulin resistance). 


Prediabetes is a condition that develops before type 2 diabetes. With prediabetes, your blood sugar is higher than normal, but lower than in diabetes. Prediabetes does not always lead to symptoms, but it can. Prediabetes symptoms in men could include acanthosis nigricans, which is darkening of the skin on the neck or armpits, or changes in their eyes as an early sign of retinopathy.

Who Is More Likely to Get Diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include both nonmodifiable and modifiable factors. You are at higher risk for prediabetes and diabetes if any of the following apply to you. 

  • Age over 45
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • High total or LDL, or low HDL, cholesterol, or high triglycerides or blood pressure
  • Certain minorities, such as Asian American, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or African American.

You can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by losing extra pounds, eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and managing health conditions such as high cholesterol or blood pressure. If you have prediabetes, you can sign up for Lark’s Fully-CDC Recognized DPP, which can lower risk for diabetes by over 50%. Lark offers an entirely-digital program that is convenient and easy to follow.

Common Symptoms of Diabetes in Both Men and Women

While diabetes early signs may be absent or subtle, signs of type 2 diabetes can occur very clearly as well. They can be a reflection of too much sugar in the blood, and signs of diabetes in men over 40 can include:

  • Increased thirst and more frequent urination.
  • Unexpected weight loss and fatigue, since sugar is not being processed properly
  • Impaired wound healing, skin infections, and numbness, due to damage to your blood vessels and poorer circulation.

Type 2 diabetes is no longer a disease that only old folks get. It is becoming more common among younger people. Signs of diabetes in people over 30 are the same signs that might be familiar to you if you have seen your parents or grandparents manage diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes signs are more pronounced, but are the same as those listed above. They come on more suddenly, over the course of days or weeks. In contrast, type 2 diabetes can take years to develop.

Even though diabetes signs in those over 50 may be subtle, or they may seem like more of a nuisance than a medical emergency, they should not be ignored. Getting your diabetes or prediabetes diagnosed means you can manage or treat it. With prediabetes, that means you can act to lower your risk for developing diabetes, and if you already have diabetes, managing it properly means you can prevent or delay complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.

How Is Diabetes Different in Men Compared to Women?

The way type 2 diabetes develops in men versus women is the same, with insulin resistance gradually developing and blood sugar levels eventually rising. However, men have higher rates of diabetes, according to the CDC. In 2015, 12.7% of American men, compared to 11.7% of women, had type 2 diabetes. 

This may be partly related to men being biologically more susceptible than women. One study, published in “Diabetologia,” looked at the relationship between body weight and diabetes diagnosis among 51,920 men and 43,137 women. Results showed that men tend to be diagnosed with diabetes at a lower body mass index (BMI) than women. The research results suggest that while extra body weight is a risk factor for both genders, it is more dangerous for men. 

Why does extra body fat appear to be more dangerous for men than women? It is probably related to where the fat is stored in the body. Women tend to have a “pear-shaped” body, with more fat accumulating around the hips and thighs. In contrast, men tend to have “apple-shaped” bodies, with more fat accumulating around organs in the mid-section. More importantly, this abdominal fat has negative metabolic effects.

Diabetes Signs Unique to Men Only

Many of the signs of diabetes are the same in men and women, but the National Institututes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explains that some signs of diabetes are present in men only.  As with complications such as vision problems, kidney disease, and neuropathy, diabetes-related bladder and sexual problems in men can result from slow wound healing. 

Diabetes signs in men can include:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED), which means you cannot achieve or hold an erection for long enough to have acceptable intercourse. The NIDDK says that half of men with diabetes get ED, and are three times more likely than men without diabetes to get ED.
  • Low testosterone, or “low T,” can happen as you age, and is more likely when you are overweight and/or have type 2 diabetes. Testosterone is a sex hormone, and low levels can lead to depression, lack of energy, or reduced sex drive. Testosterone therapy with a patch, gel, or injection, can help, but it has side effects.

Although discussing diabetes signs in men sexually can seem embarrassing, it is important to bring up any concerns with your doctor. Healthcare providers are trained to talk about these issues, and they can help you keep your sexual life as healthy and fulfilling as possible.

It is also important to recognize that these and other diabetes signs are the result of poorly controlled blood sugar. You can prevent or delay these and other diabetes complications by taking diabetes management steps.

Written by Natalie Stein on September 27, 2018
Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health
How to get the support you need from family and friends when managing your diabetes or other chronic condition
How to get the support you need from family and friends when managing your diabetes or other chronic condition