Be Aware - What is diabetes

Find out what is diabetes, the complications it can cause for your body, and the symptoms you should look out for.

Be Aware

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where your body cannot manage sugar properly, resulting in too much sugar in your blood​.
1 in 3
Singaporeans is at risk of developing diabetes
Close to 1 in 10
Singaporeans has diabetes
2 in 3
With newly diagnosed kidney failure have diabetes
1 in 3
Diagnosed with diabetes continues to have high blood sugar levels
1 in 3
With diabetes does not know he or she has it
1 in 3
With diabetes has eye disease
About 4 individuals with diabetes undergo amputations due to complications

Diabetes can cause complications for your body

High blood sugar, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol will damage blood vessels.
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High blood sugar, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol will damage blood vessels. You may not know of the damage until you develop or screen for these complications.

Small blood vessel (microvascular) damage

  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
    • Loss of feeling in the feet
    • Increased risk of foot ulcers and infections
  • Eye disease (retinopathy)
  • Reduced kidney function (nephropathy)

Large blood vessel (macrovascular) damage

  • Stroke (cerebrovascular disease)
  • Heart disease (cardiovascular disease)
  • Circulatory problems (peripheral vascular disease)


It can be difficult to distinguish Type 1 from Type 2 diabetes. They share many similar symptoms, and the differences are slight. (Learn about Types of Diabetes)

Symptoms that may be common to both*

Need to urinate often (especially at night)
Feels thirsty often
Loses weight without trying
Often hungry
Blurred vision
Numbness or tingling in hands/feet
Gets tired easily, or lacks energy
Dry skin
Sores/wounds that take a long time to heal
Prone to infections (commonly involving skin, urine or lungs)
*May not be experienced by all.

Type 1 Diabetes

Fast onset, often over a few weeks.

When the symptoms are ignored, it can lead to serious complications such as Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), when acids known as ketones build up in the bloodstream.

Type 2 Diabetes

May not have obvious symptoms or the symptoms can be easily missed.

If ignored, they can lead to serious complications such as Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic Syndrome, (HHS), when blood sugar is dangerously high and the body becomes severely dehydrated.

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