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What is Diabetes Fatigue?

By Steve R.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Diabetes fatigue is the result of a disparity in one’s blood sugar. The body needs the hormone insulin to transform glucose, a type of sugar in the blood, into energy. When the body has metabolism difficulty, sugar flows through the blood stream as unconverted energy. This causes the body to have an insufficient amount of energy, causing exhaustion. Diabetes fatigue can be both mental and physical and is an early warning sign of diabetes.

Individuals suffering from physical fatigue will be unable to move muscles as they normally would. Physical fatigue can exist in the arms or legs or throughout the entire body. A physically fatigued person has to put forth substantial exertion to complete daily activities.

Diabetes fatigue can also affect a person mentally. With mental fatigue, a person is always tired and aspires to sleep all the time. In addition to a feeling of drowsiness, mental fatigue may result in a lack of concentration. Other symptoms that are often associated with diabetes fatigue include excessive thirst and hunger, along with the need to constantly go to the bathroom, vision impairment, and skin irritations.

Fatigue occurs in individuals with type 1 diabetes when the pancreas is unable to manufacture any insulin whatsoever. Blood contains glucose, but insulin is unavailable to be taken in by cells. Individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes do not get enough insulin to meet the body’s needs, which also causes fatigue. Diabetes fatigue can also be brought about by conditions including obesity, kidney ailments, hypertension, and coronary disease.

When a person's blood sugar level stays constant, the feeling of exhaustion will decrease. If a person suffers from diabetes fatigue, there are lifestyle changes he can make on the onset of diabetes. A person can shed extra pounds until arriving at his proper body weight. Other alterations an individual can make include eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep.

In cases when lifestyle changes do not work, a person may need to resort to other methods. This can include oral medication or insulin shots. During more advanced instances of diabetes fatigue, a person will need to continue to eat properly, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

Additional techniques to combat fatigue include relaxation techniques. Meditating, visualizing positive images, and practicing breathing exercises assists in lowering stress levels and lowering blood pressure. Maintaining a positive attitude and accepting one's condition can also assist to fight fatigue.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Feb 11, 2013

Is it possible that diabetes doesn't cause fatigue, but rather the insulin medications do?

I had diabetes symptoms for several years before I was diagnosed. I never had much fatigue then. After I was diagnosed and started taking insulin tablets, I've been experiencing a lot of fatigue. Fatigue and exhaustion are also mentioned in the side effects list of the drug.

I think many of us are confusing this side effect as a symptom of diabetes.

By ysmina — On Feb 10, 2013

@fify-- It's not that you don't have sugar, you just don't have the insulin to change the sugar into ATP energy that your cells can use. Or if you have type two diabetes, the insulin doesn't transport the sugar to where it needs to go.

It's normal to experience diabetes symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, confusion and nausea in this situation. These are due to the brain not receiving enough energy. When this happens, you must check your blood sugar and administer insulin and/or glucose tablets as necessary.

Hypoglycemia, or the sudden fall of blood sugar, is very dangerous for diabetics. Forget about fatigue, it can even lead to a coma. So you have to keep your blood sugar levels at an optimum level throughout the day.

By fify — On Feb 10, 2013

How long does it take for the lack of sugar/energy to result in fatigue?

I don't have constant fatigue, I only have fatigue when my sugar falls too much. Even though I was perfectly fine five minutes ago, I become exhausted suddenly. Is this normal?

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