The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be quite different.

Type 1 DiabetesBoy drinking water

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes can appear quickly and include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Weight loss and hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

Teens may also have behavioral changes such as a change in grade point average or participation in extra-curricular activities. A condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can develop suddenly and maybe the first indication of type 1 diabetes. DKA happens when there is a sudden insulin deficiency. The body switches to using ketone bodies for energy because glucose cannot be used by cells. High levels of ketone bodies in the blood lead to an acid imbalance, which can be life-threatening.

Early symptoms of DKA include those listed above, but can progress to the following symptoms:

  • Severe fatigue
  • Dry or flushed skin
  • Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain (sometimes confused for a stomach bug)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity odor on breath
  • Confusion

If any of these symptoms become apparent in a child with diabetes, the health care provider should be contacted immediately and one should go to the nearest emergency room. If left untreated, DKA can lead to coma and even death.

Type 2 Diabetes

In contrast to type 1, symptoms of type 2 diabetes appear more slowly.

  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea
  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds
  • Females may be more prone to yeast infections
  • Acanthosis nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans is darkened, velvety patches of skin found in areas between other skin layers. For example, you may see patches of darker skin at the nape of the neck or near the skin folds of the groin, armpits, or breasts. In some cases, this can be inherited. Certain medications like human growth hormone, birth control, and large doses of niacin can contribute to the condition. Other hormone problems or tumors may cause this condition. Rarely, acanthosis nigricans is associated with certain types of cancer.