Common Health Problems  »  General Health Conditions


Source: CVS Caremark Health Resources

Diabetes is having too much sugar (glucose) in the blood and not enough in the body’s cells. Glucose needs to get into the cells to be used for energy. Insulin is needed for this to occur. Diabetes results when no insulin is made, not enough insulin is made, or the insulin is not used properly.

Signs & Symptoms

  1. Passing urine often.

  2. Excessive thirst.

  3. Extreme hunger.

  4. Unusual weight loss.

  5. Increased fatigue.

  6. Irritability.

  7. Blurry vision.

Diabetes can also be present without any of these symptoms. Diabetes can be a very serious illness. If it is not treated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness.

Follow your doctor’s advice for screening tests for diabetes. Persons with high blood pressure and/or high LDL-cholesterol should be screened. Fasting blood glucose tests help diagnose diabetes.

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Lose weight if you are overweight. Many cases of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes can be controlled by not being overweight.

  2. Do not smoke. If you smoke, quit!

  3. Follow the diet prescribed by your health care provider.

  4. Work with your doctor to develop an exercise program that works for you. When you exercise, carry something with you to eat or drink that has sugar. Examples are fruit juices, 6 or 7 hard candies, and 3 glucose tablets.

  5. Get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. Get other vaccines, as advised by your doctor.

  6. Find out if you should carry a glucagon emergency kit with you. Your doctor needs to prescribe this.

  7. Test your blood glucose with a home testing device. Test as often as your doctor advises. If told to, test your urine for ketones.

  8. Keep a journal of your blood glucose levels, your food intake, and the exercises you do. Share your journal with your doctor.

  9. Buy and wear a medical alert tag. Get one from a drug store or from: MedicAlert Foundation International 888.633.4298 or

  10. Take good care of your feet.

  11. -Keep your feet clean. Don’t go barefoot.

  12. -Wear shoes and slippers that fit your feet well.

  13. -Cut toenails straight across. Do not cut them close to the skin. Have a foot doctor cut your toenails, if advised.

  14. Take good care of your skin and protect it from damage.

  15. -Keep your skin clean.

  16. -Avoid cuts, scrapes, punctures, etc. Treat any skin injury right away.

  17. -Don’t get sunburned. Use sunscreen when in the sun.

  18. -Wear gloves in cold weather or when you do work that may injure your hands.

  19. Schedule eye exam(s) as advised.

  20. When you travel, plan, in advance, for your needs.

  21. -Before you leave home, locate one or more medical care facilities where you are going.

  22. -Take your medications; snacks and quick sugar sources; self-testing equipment; and glucagon emergency kit, if you have one.

  23. -If traveling by plane, ask for a special meal at least 24 hours ahead of time and/or bring foods that fit your meal plan(s).

  24. If you get sick, follow the plans worked out ahead of time with your doctor. This includes: Self-testing of blood sugar and ketones; what to eat and drink; and how to adjust insulin or oral pills.

Questions to Ask

Do signs of very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) occur, even after having a sugar source twice in the last 30 minutes?

  1. Blood sugar reading is <50 mg/dL.

  2. Weak, dizzy, or shaky feeling.

  3. Confusion.

  4. Numbness, tingling feeling of any part of the body, especially the hands, mouth, or lips.

  5. Sweating. Cold, clammy skin.

  6. Rapid pulse. Shallow breathing.

  7. Sudden blurred or double vision.

  8. Faintness. (May pass out.)

Does a person without a diagnosis of diabetes have signs and symptoms of diabetes listed above?


American Diabetes Association


HealthyLearn® Click on MedlinePlus®.

Plasma Glucose Result


99 mg/dL and below


Fasting Plasma Glucose Test

100 to 125 mg/dL

Pre-diabetes (impaired fasting glucose)

126 mg/dL and above


*Confirmed by repeating the test on a different day


For Four Types of Diabetes

Type 1. The pancreas gland makes no insulin or makes very small amounts. Most often, this occurs in children and young adults, but can happen at any age. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly.

Type 2. The body does not make enough insulin or does not use it the right way. Often, this occurs in persons who are over age 40, are overweight, and/or who don’t exercise. In type 2 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on more slowly.

Pre-diabetes. With this type, blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diabetes. Many people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. Modest weight loss and moderate physical activity can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.

Gestational. This occurs during pregnancy. It usually ends when the pregnancy ends. It does, though, increase the risk for the mother to get diabetes in the future.

Do signs of very high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) occur?

  1. Tiredness. Weakness. Fatigue.

  2. Flushed skin. Weak, rapid pulse.

  3. Nausea and/or vomiting. Breath smells fruity.

  4. Hard time breathing. Usually short, deep breaths.

  5. Drunk-like behavior.

  6. Confusion. Dizziness. Can’t be roused.

Do any of these problems occur?

  1. Sudden change of vision in one eye.

  2. Signs and symptoms of dehydration.

  3. Within hours to 2 days time, the skin on a foot turned grayish to black in color and sensation can’t be felt in the foot.

Does a person with diabetes have any of these problems?

  1. Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

  2. Signs and symptoms of a skin infection (e.g., redness, pain, pus, warm feeling at the site, and fever).

  3. A wound that does not heal. Any foot problem. Troublesome dry skin. A splinter that cannot be removed.

  4. Vomiting for more than 2 hours.

  5. Abdominal pain. Rectal problems.

  6. Loss of bladder control.

  7. For females, signs and symptoms of a vaginal infection.

  8. Fatigue that gets worse.


Treatment for diabetes depends on the type and how severe it is. Diabetes needs a treatment plan that maintains normal, steady blood sugar levels. This is done with:

  1. Proper diet.

  2. Weight loss, if needed.

  3. Exercise.

  4. Medicines:

  5. -Oral pills.

  6. -Insulin (through shots or an insulin pump device).

  7. -Medicines to treat other conditions.

Routine medical care and follow-up treatment are important to control blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels and to prevent serious problems.