Questions and Answers - symptoms of diabetes


Use the chart below to help understand how different test results can indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes

  Fasting Blood Glucose Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) Random Blood Sugar (taken any time of day with or without fasting) A1C
Ideal Result Less than 100mg/dl Less than 140 mg/dl Less than 140 (even after eating a large meal) Less than 5.7%
Pre-diabetes 100-125mg/dl 140-199mg/dl 140-200 5.7% to 6.4%
Diabetes 126mg/dl and greater 200 mg/dl and greater 200 or greater 6.5% or more


Q: Can an alcohol body odor, profuse sweating, constant desire for sweets, and constant thirst be signs of diabetes? 
A: When there is excess sugar circulating in the bloodstream, not getting into the muscles because of insufficiency or malfunctioning of insulin, the body may begin to break down fat at a rapid rate to provide energy to "hungry" tissues. This can cause the odor you are referring to. The other symptoms you describe can also indicate high blood sugar. I suggest you see your physician ASAP.

Q: How does diabetes affect your thinking process? Under medications such as insulin do diabetics still suffer from attitude swings? 
A: With or without diabetes, when blood sugars are not in balance, fatigue, dizziness, "fuzzy" thinking, mood swings and other symptoms may result. With insulin-requiring diabetes, it can be even more challenging to maintain stable blood sugars, but is very achievable with the right monitoring and support. Having a disease like diabetes does provide greater challenges for stable health and moods, but does not negate the ability to attain and maintain them.

Q: Do I have diabetes with fasting sugar levels only a little on the high side? They have varied from 102 to 110 for the last 10 years. However my sugar level after eating food has always been within the limit, varying from 110 to 130
A: You are what we term "pre-diabetic" with fasting blood sugars between 100 -125. One or two sessions with a nutritionist should get you going in the right direction to help you achieve a goal of being around 90 for a fasting level. And of course, regular exercise and activity are most important. If you haven't done so, get a thorough physical, including an A1C (average measure of 3 months of blood sugars). This will give you some sense of the areas you need to focus on. All is manageable.

Q: My 66 year old father has diabetes. He has been getting very dry patches of skin on his back mostly. They turn a little scaly and itch very badly. Is this a typical symptom of diabetes? What do you suggest for relief? 
A: Eczema can result from diabetes, especially when blood sugar levels have been out of range. He may also be low in essential fats such as those found in fish oil. Inadequate hydration is another factor to consider.  I suggest for immediate relief, check with your pharmacist to see if there is a prescription that might help.  In the herbal world, lavender can be very beneficial, but the oil would need to be a pure lavender oil.  Adding oatmeal or baking soda to a warm bath can help keep the skin moist, a key to quelling the itching.  Rubbing aloe vera juice on the skin can also be effective.  This is inexpensive and available and in most drug stores and some grocery stores.

Q: Why do I get a headache and start to feel nauseous when I eat or drink something sweet?
A: It sounds as if you are carb sensitive, meaning the refined, simple carbohydrates such as sweets, are rapidly digested, lifting your blood sugar quickly but then rapidly "dropping" you back down. This is especially likely to happen if no other foods eaten along with the simple carb foods. It would be very wise for you to avoid these foods as much as possible. Have you had your blood sugar tested? Now would be a good time to follow a healthy lifestyle, eating whole, unrefined foods and staying active. Balancing our metabolisms is an ongoing and fine tuning process, challenged by the environment we live in and the daily stresses of life. It is doubly important to nourish ourselves well in order to combat the elements we can't control.

Q: I have a 3 year old grandson. Now and then he has a slight shaking if he doesn’t eat right. I am thinking his sugar is low. Would you please tell me what a child's count should be.
A: Right now, we have the same glucose ranges for chilren and adults for a diagnosis of diabetes. 126 or greater is diabetes. 80-90 fasting is a good range. Low blood sugar can range from 60-80 depending on the person and other conditions/medications. If you haven't already done so, check with his pediatrician. If fasting sugars are normal and his symptoms persist, you may want to inquire about a 2 hour glucose tolerance test to see if he is in the correct range post-meal. In general, start him now on healthy foods, limiting sweets and juices. Be sure he has some form of protein at each meal. You may notice improvement.

Q: Why do my fingers always feel numb and cold? 
A: I am assuming that you are asking this question because you have diabetes. Reduced circulation and/or numbing in hands/feet can be a result of fluctuation blood sugars over many years. You should mention this to your physician. Be sure you inspect your feet daily to be sure you do not have any unfelt splinters, etc. Most importantly, do everything you can to keep your blood sugars in a good range.

Q: Is it possible to have diabetes with frequent urination without excessive thirst? I have frequent urination (have to get up 5-7 times during the night, yet only drank 3 glasses of water the entire day and before 7pm). My reading at fasting was 118; reading 2 hours after a meal (spinach salad and chicken) was 207. So it seems like I have some of the classic symptoms. However, I am NEVER thirsty and I actually have to force myself to drink the 2-3 glasses of water that I do drink. 
A: I would hope repeat testing has been suggested, particularly since you are still showing symptoms. 126 fasting, twice, means a diagnosis of diabetes. At 118, yours is a diagnosis of impaired fasting glucose. If you haven't already started, it is most important that you now follow a healthy lifestyle. It may be helpful to get a hemoglobin A1C to get a 3 month blood sugar average. It may be that you are experiencing higher daytime blood sugars. You may also benefit by a visit to an endocrinologists if you are not getting resolutions from your current medical team.

Q: Should I be concerned that my 13 year old son has been very tired and had a 145 blood sugar reading? My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 last year when she was 7. I'm not sure if this reading was normal after eating and drinking. 
A: That is a bit high. Is his tiredness an isolated instance? If you are concerned, you can request his levels be checked. If you have an endocrinologist, inquire about testing that may identify a predisposition to diabetes. Meanwhile, I suggest you actively work on dietary changes with him. Because you have one child who is already diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to have your entire family eating healthfully and leading an active lifestyle. Even when taking insulin, good lifestyle habits are what sustain a higher quality of life.

Q: Diabetes runs in my family so I am concerned that I am going to the bathroom much more often. I do drink a good amount of diet colas.
A: Lots of diet colas can be irritating since caffeine acts as a diuretic. Are you rapidly losing weight or showing other symptoms of diabetes? Start by stopping the sodas, and see if this doesn't make a difference. If not, I suggest you see your physician. If you have any burning or irritation, it may also be that you have a bladder/kidney infection.

Q: Is hair loss is a symptom of diabetes?
A: Have you consulted an endocrinologist about this? Your hair loss could be related to a condition called "alopecia", involving hormone imbalance. Poor diets can also be a cause, especially when B vitamins are lacking. I suggest you truly look at your lifestyle/eating habits and put forth fine tuning efforts here, and consult for further screenings if the condition persists.

Q: Are the following symptoms of diabetes?: very dry skin on my face, slight hair loss, a very sweet taste in my mouth, weight gain, difficulty losing weight, increased acne, tingling feeling all over, irritability, sometimes nausea, sometimes shaky if I don't eat right away. I've been on the Atkins diet for the last 3 months, and have lost about 20 pounds. I run on a treadmill for about 50 minutes at least 4 or 5 times a week. 
A: By now, if these symptoms are persisting, I trust you have seen your doctor for a check-up/screening. The Atkins diet is not for everyone; a protein emphasis of the right kinds and balance can be beneficial for metabolic control. Some people do better with vegetarian proteins such as beans. Getting Metabolic/Lipid/Thyroid Panels done will let you know where you are in the ranges. From there, you may need to reassess your dietary habits.

Q: Is it a sign of diabetes that my 14 month old twin boys have had yeast infections on their bottoms for the past two and a half months? I have tried everything but no relief from the symptoms.
A: Definitely discuss this with your physician. Your sons should be given probiotics such as acidophilus whenever taking antibiotics. Yogurt and Kefir are two great foods if they'll eat them. Their diet is also very important: good protein sources and lots of greens, no white/unrefined foods. If you have any integrative medicine practitioners in your area, they would have a better handle on non-pharmacological approaches.

Q: Should I be concerned about being diabetic with the following readings: Fasting blood sugar between 80 to 100; 200 one hour after a meal?
A: You are showing readings of hyperglycemia. The ideal fasting blood glucose reading is less than 100. The ideal post-meal blood glucose reading is less than 140. 140-200 post meal/random reading is considered pre-diabetes. There is a greater movement among diabetes management practitioners to emphasize the importance of post meal control. This is because blood sugar excursions contribute to higher oxidative stress, which in turn may cause increased tissue damage leading to greater risk of complications. This seems to be more true than chronic sustained high blood sugars, such as only high fasting levels. I suggest you carefully reevaluate your daytime eating, perhaps being more careful of carb intake and type and follow up with your health care practitioner.

Q: Should I be concerned that my glucose level has gone slightly but steadily up over the past year and a half: 99, 104 and today 106 but I have none of the usual diabetes symptoms, have loads of energy, exercise a great deal at recreational sports, and eat wisely? I do have a family history of diabetes.
A: It sounds like you are on a good path geared towards a healthy lifestyle. You may want to seek professional nutritional counseling to fine tune if you are not already very aware of such issues as the impact of carbohydrates. You are still maintaining a low pre-diabetes status. There are nutritional supplements such as water soluble cinnamon that may also be helpful in keeping your blood sugars down. Be certain too that you stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water. If you maintain these numbers and don't go any higher, you should do well.

Q: Why do I have a constant sweet taste in my mouth? I have seen my doctor and had a sugar fasting test and I do not have diabetes though I have been asked to lose weight. 
A: I suggest you consult an endocrinologist to determine/rule out other possible causes of a metabolic imbalance. You may also want an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test to see if your blood sugars are normal post meal over a 2 hour period. Regardless of these outcomes, be very clear that you are now eating "properly". Your thyroid may be a bit compromised so be sure you get 20-30 grams of protein for breakfast.

Q: Do I have diabetes if my glucose blood test readings have gone up from 94 to 102 over past 2 years. 
A: 102 is a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. A fasting level anywhere from 100-125 is considered pre-diabetes. Two fasting levels of 126 or greater is a diagnosis of diabetes. If you haven't already made significant lifestyle changes, now is the time to do so to prevent diabetes in the future. Stay dedicated to maintaining a good amount of daily activity and exercise.

Q: Do I need to do anything about an A1C score of 7.4? I was taking steroid for pain in my back. I have been checking morning sugar levels and after a month it has not been over 120. 
A: Your numbers are high on both accounts. I suggest you aggressively tackle your lifestyle habits, focusing on dietary/exercise interventions. Steroids can elevate blood sugars, but for short term doses, there should not be a problem. Work to get your fasting blood sugars under 100, closer to 90. This will in turn lower your A1C to under 6.0. If, after a few months, you are not successful, seek physician intervention. If unclear about diet, etc., seek professional guidance.

Q: I am 39 and was diagnosed with diabetes about a month ago, all my symptoms (thirst, frequent urination, dry mouth etc.) started after having 2 steroid shots for a sore throat and then I was on prednisone for my back. Could I have gotten diabetes from that? My sugar was over 425. Now in the morning is around 103-120. After meals 148-193. How long will it take to get normal.
A: I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I can't. Yes, prednisone can be a trigger for diabetes, and with following a healthy lifestyle, diabetes can be resolved to more normal blood sugars. Certainly, you are reporting much better blood sugars, in the pre-diabetes range. I suggest you discuss this with your physician, and if needed, be referred to an endocrinologist for some more definitive answers regarding the endocrine system and what may be manifesting with you. At the least, ask your pharmacist the time frame you can expect to see your course of prednisone finished. If you have a family history of diabetes, the prednisone may very well have been your trigger, particularly if you weren't following a healthy lifestyle. Time will tell; good lifestyle management is a "must."


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