Type 1 Diabetes - the Signs and Symptoms

When my daughter, Alissa, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 11, there was no-one more surprised than us.

Yet, when we looked back, there were some key signs and symptoms that we had simply missed. Whilst everyone is different, here’s our own story, in the hope that it might help other parents.

Weight loss

We barely noticed it at the time, but, looking back Alissa probably lost about half a stone. We just thought she looked thin and tanned in our holiday photos, but that was because she was unable to gain energy from her food and instead was burning up all her stored fat.

Headaches or migraines

A few months before diagnosies Alissa was diagnosed with migraines.

We now wonder whether this was her body slowing down it’s production of insulin, and whether these headaches were caused by ketones.


This is probably one of the most common symptoms in individuals diagnosed with diabetes. Whilst your body is trying to create a balance, the increasing levels of ketones will make you continually thirsty.

Frequent urination

This can be a side-effect of drinking so much – as the body is trying to heal itself, but is simply unable to do so.

We overlooked this as it wasn’t the first time that Alissa had needed us to stop on journeys, we just hadn’t had to stop so often when making long car journeys! We’d even considered the fact that she regularly got cystitis on longer journeys when sat down – but hadn’t carried out the simple tests available to see whether this was indeed the cause.


I’d say tiredness, but Alissa started to look drawn and worn out. She suffered a lack of energy that became really apparent when we went on a walking holiday in Switzerland.

This is because her body was unable to turn the food that she was eating into energy properly.

Smell of Pear Drops

When the body is releasing ketones as a result of too much glucose in the bloodstream, a very unusual symptom is that the breath that smells like pear-drops. This is often a way that medical staff can tell straight away whether someone may be diabetic, although their family may have simply got used to the smell over a period of time.

When to take Medical Advice

These are just some of the symptoms which may be an indicator of type 1 diabetes. If you or your child experience these, it's important to seek medical advice.

Your health care professional will be able to administer a very accurate, quick blood or urine test to tell whether or not it is likely to be diabetes.

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