Health advice

What is diabetes?

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Diabetes is a life-long condition. Read more to find out what it is and the symptoms to look out for.
What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a life-long condition that causes blood sugar levels to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.1

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Peeing more frequently than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling very tired
  • Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
  • Itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
  • Cuts or wounds that heal slowly
  • Blurred vision.1
  • Other health conditions linked to diabetes

    Other health conditions commonly linked to diabetes include:

  • High blood pressure – up to 75% of adults who have diabetes also have high blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Dyslipidemia – abnormal level of lipids (fats) in the body
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Depression.1,4,5
  • People living in lower income areas are also believed to experience more linked health conditions as a result of their diabetes diagnosis, than people from wealthier areas. Depression is one of the most commonly linked health conditions.4

    How do I know if I have diabetes?

    Most people will find out they have type 1 or type 2 diabetes after experiencing symptoms and visiting their GP. Your GP will talk to you about your symptoms, then ask you to complete a urine and blood test to check your blood sugar levels.1

    Diabetes during pregnancy

    Some women can develop diabetes during pregnancy. This is known as gestational diabetes. Find out more about gestational diabetes on the pregnancy and birth charity Tommy's website.

    Find out more

    Pregnant woman in orange dress smiles while looking at her phone

    Reviewed by: Mital Thakrar

    Review date: October 2022

    Next review: September 2025

    Where can I get further support and information?

    Age UK
    Information and support for older people, including information about diabetes and how to manage it.

    Children with Diabetes in the UK
    Information and support for parents and young people with diabetes, including links to online support groups.

    Diabetes UK
    Information and support for people living with diabetes, including a helpline, online live chat service and local community support groups.

    NHS Inform
    Information and support if you live in Scotland, including information about diabetes.

    NHS website
    Information about diabetes, including risk, symptoms and treatments to manage diabetes.

    Information and support for people during pregnancy and birth, including information about diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes).

    1. Diabetes. Published October 18, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2020.
    2. Updates: Coronavirus and diabetes. Diabetes UK. Accessed November 30, 2020.
    3. Long AN, Dagogo-Jack S. Comorbidities of diabetes and hypertension: mechanisms and approach to target organ protection. J Clin Hypertens Greenwich Conn. 2011;13(4):244-251.
    4. Nowakowska M, Zghebi SS, Ashcroft DM, et al. The comorbidity burden of type 2 diabetes mellitus: patterns, clusters and predictions from a large English primary care cohort. BMC Med. 2019;17(1):145.
    5. Dharmalingam M, Yamasandhi PG. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2018;22(3):421-428. doi:10.4103/ijem.IJEM_585_17

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