Diabetes (formally diabetes mellitus) is a common condition that impacts roughly 1 out of every 10 Americans. Characterized by chronically high blood sugar levels, it can be life-threatening if left undiagnosed or untreated but is also highly manageable when consistently treated with a combination of proper medications and/or lifestyle changes.

One of the best ways to mitigate the risks associated with diabetes and its many potential comorbidities (including cardiovascular issues, vision problems, nerve damage, and many more) is early diagnosis. Not all patients will experience symptoms in the early stages of the disease (this is particularly true for Type 2 diabetes, which tends to develop over a much longer period of time than other forms of diabetes). That being said, knowing what symptoms to pay attention to can prompt patients to seek medical attention expediently and improve their odds of effectively managing their diabetes and improving their overall health outcomes in the long term.

Polydipsia (excessive thirst), polyuria (excessive urination), and polyphagia (excessive hunger) are known as the 3 P’s of diabetes and are significant indicators of all forms of the disease—though they often develop most rapidly in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Below, we’ve compiled an overview of these three critical symptoms, their causes, and some general information about diabetes diagnosis and treatment.

None of the information on Bisonpharmacy.com’s website is intended to constitute or replace medical advice. If you believe that you or someone you love may be experiencing symptoms of diabetes, it is critical to make a medical appointment to discuss these concerns as soon as possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Early diagnosis of diabetes can help to improve the health outcomes of patients with this common disease.
  • The three most common symptoms of diabetes are known as the 3 P’s. They are:
    • Polydipsia – excessive thirst
    • Polyuria – frequent urination
    • Polyphagia – excessive hunger
  • Though the 3 P’s are strong indicators of diabetes, their presence alone doesn’t necessarily constitute a diagnosis of the disease. Diabetes is also associated with other symptoms and is usually formally diagnosed with a series of different blood sugar tests.
  • If you are experiencing one or more of the 3 P’s of diabetes (or other symptoms associated with the disease) on an ongoing basis, it is essential to seek medical attention.

The Fundamentals of Diabetes

Diabetes is a common condition in which the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates is compromised.

When carbohydrates are consumed and broken down into sugars during digestion, they enter the bloodstream, causing a temporary spike in blood sugar, and then are quickly converted into energy by the cells in the body. Insulin, a hormone naturally produced and released by the pancreas, is responsible for helping sugars move from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.

In people with diabetes, insulin is either unavailable (not produced in sufficient quantities by the pancreas) or the body’s cells are not as sensitive to insulin as they should be (known as insulin resistance). Either way, sugars build up in the bloodstream and result in chronically high blood glucose levels. In addition, the body’s cells don’t receive the fuel necessary to power the body.

Over time, the consequences of diabetes can be severe and even life-threatening. Early recognition of the symptoms below can provide the opportunity to address (and, in some cases, even reverse) the underlying causes of diabetes as well as to manage the condition as effectively as possible.

See also: What Types of Diabetes Are There?


Polydipsia is a medical term meaning excessive thirst. This symptom is characterized by a dry mouth and extreme, unexplained thirst that seems unquenchable no matter how much water is consumed.

Polydipsia Causes

Polydipsia is associated with several different medical conditions, including kidney disorders and excessive sweating. It can also be a response to certain pharmaceutical medications or result from psychiatric disorders (known as psychogenic polydipsia).

People with diabetes often experience polydipsia because their kidneys are working overtime in response to high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar isn’t taken into the body’s cells, the kidneys respond by producing more urine to flush out excess glucose and restore balance. As a result, the body continually loses fluids much faster than average, leading to an overarching increase in thirst.


Polyuria is a medical term meaning excessive urination. This symptom is characterized by the consistent output of more than 3.2 quarts of urine per day.

Polyuria Causes

Like polydipsia, polyuria is sometimes associated with kidney and psychiatric disorders. It may also occur in response to certain pharmaceutical drugs. Not surprisingly, polydipsia and polyuria frequently go hand in hand because excessive urination naturally leads to excessive thirst and vice versa.

People with diabetes may experience polyuria for the same reasons they experience polydipsia: The kidneys’ accelerated efforts to remove excess glucose from the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels are properly regulated, both of these symptoms tend to subside or disappear altogether.


Polyphagia is a medical term meaning excessive hunger. This symptom is characterized by an unexplained increase in appetite that seems insatiable no matter how much food is consumed.

Polyphagia Causes

Polyphagia can be associated with several different medical conditions, including hypoglycemia, eating disorders, anxiety, and other psychological disorders. However, it is very commonly associated with diabetes.

People with diabetes tend to experience polyphagia because their cells are not receiving the fuel they need. In response, the body signals the brain to consume more food. Without insulin “unlocking” the body’s cells, this excess consumption of food simply leads to higher and higher blood sugar levels and perpetuates a vicious cycle.

Can You Diagnose Diabetes From the 3 P’s Alone?

When polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia occur simultaneously in a patient, the underlying cause is nearly always diabetes. That being said, these symptoms alone do not constitute a formal diagnosis of the disease. It’s also important to keep in mind that some patients with diabetes may not experience any of these symptoms at all (this is particularly true in the case of Type 2 diabetes, which tends to develop slowly).

In addition to taking note of specific symptoms, the formal diagnosis of diabetes typically involves running several tests. These may include:

  • A1C test
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test
  • Random plasma glucose (RPG) test

Other Symptoms of Diabetes

Though noteworthy, polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia are not the only telltale symptoms of diabetes. Other common symptoms of the disease may include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Vision issues
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

If you are experiencing any of the 3 P’s and/or one or more of the symptoms listed above, it is strongly recommended to seek medical advice as soon as possible.


Diabetes presents differently in every patient, and treatment plans for the disease tend to be highly individualized. Often, the effective management of diabetes involves a multi-pronged approach that evolves over time and includes some or all of the following components:

  • Medication – Insulin and/or other antidiabetic medications may be indicated to help maintain target blood glucose levels.
  • Lifestyle Modifications – Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and getting plenty of regular exercise are critical aspects of diabetes management. In addition, it’s also essential to reduce stress and get an adequate amount of sleep.
  • Monitoring Blood Sugar – Regularly testing and tracking blood sugar levels allows patients with diabetes to gain an awareness of their blood sugar patterns, plan their food/medication intake, and respond to changes as necessary. Most people with diabetes check their blood glucose levels at least once per day and sometimes much more frequently.

When You Should See a Doctor

If you are experiencing unexplained polydipsia, polyuria, and/or polyphagia for more than a few days, it’s critical to make an appointment with your doctor or healthcare provider. The same goes for any other unexplained diabetes symptoms that may spontaneously develop.

Even if the presence of these symptoms doesn’t lead to a diabetes diagnosis, it’s still important to investigate their underlying cause and ensure you are prioritizing your overall health and wellness. If you do have diabetes, early diagnosis of the condition can make a world of difference in managing the disease and reducing the risk of further complications.


In conclusion, polydipsia (excessive thirst), polyuria (excessive urination), and polyphagia (excessive hunger) are referred to as the 3 P’s of diabetes because they often occur in response to the chronically high blood sugar levels associated with all forms of the disease. Understanding these symptoms, as well as the other symptoms of diabetes, can lead to its early diagnosis and treatment.

If you are currently undergoing testing for diabetes or have recently been diagnosed with the disease, you may be in search of affordable insulin and/or other antidiabetic medications such as Ozempic or Mounjaro. At Bisonpharmacy.com, we specialize in shipping high-quality medications to Americans at affordable prices and would be happy to answer any questions you may have about our products and services. For more information, contact us directly today!

About the Author

Ida Edlweiss Gumpal is a licensed Pharmacist and medical writer. She took her internships at Mercury Drug Corporation, Inc., a Hospital internship at De Vera Medical Center, Inc., and a Manufacturing internship at Philmed Laboratories, Inc. She has plans on attending medical school with the goal of specializing in Neurosurgery or Cardiothoracic surgery.