Type 2 diabetes symptoms: Does your breath smell like this? Warning sign of condition

Type 2 diabetes symptoms don’t necessarily make people feel unwell, which is why many people with the condition may have it without realising. The condition can trigger a range of different symptoms, from increased thirst to feeling very tired.


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A lesser known symptom of type 2 diabetes can be identified in a person’s breath. But what exactly should you be looking out for?

Halitosis, better known as ‘bad breath’, is sometimes associated with diabetes.

Causes of bad breath are often linked to poor dental plaque removal.

Plaque bacteria, which live in-between the teeth and on the surface of the tongue, digest glucose or food particles then release bad-smelling gasses.

But there are some medical conditions, including diabetes, which can make people more susceptible to halitosis.

Diabetes.co.uk explains: “In people with diabetes, high blood sugar levels increase glucose levels in saliva. This provides food for bacteria in the mouth and leads to the build-up of dental plaque.

“If plaque is not removed effectively tooth decay and gum disease may occur which also causes halitosis.”

The diabetes expert adds: “Diabetes can cause ketoacidosis, which is where the body burns fat instead of glucose if there is too little insulin in the blood, or if insulin resistance is too high.

“Ketones then form as a waste product which cause an unusual smell on the breath sometimes compared to pear drops.

“If you notice you have bad breath, it could be a side effect of your regular medications.

“Some people report having bad breath as a result of taking metformin.

“If you take metformin and think it is causing you to have bad breath, contact your diabetes healthcare team for advice on alternative medications which may be available.”


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People with diabetes can lessen their risk of bad breath by avoiding sugary drinks and food and by maintaining good oral health and blood sugar levels.

It’s important to note bad breath isn’t always caused by diabetes or bad oral health.

Other causes include eating or drinking strong-smelling or spicy foods and drinks and crash dieting.

Some medical conditions, like tonsillitis or acid reflux can also cause bad breath, as well as smoking.

Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Other symptoms of the condition are listed by the NHS as:

  • Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision

Certain people are more at risk at developing type 2 diabetes. This includes people who:

  • Are over 40 (or 25 for south Asian people)
  • Have a close relative with diabetes (such as a parent, brother or sister)
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are of south Asian, Chines, African Caribbean or black African origin (even if you were born in the UK)

If you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting it, see your GP.

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