What are the 3 P’s of Diabetes & their Characteristics?

Diabetes is a dreaded and serious illness affecting large number of people worldwide. In diabetes, there is increased blood glucose level, which can lead to several health complications and may prove to be fatal at times. The most common symptoms to identify this condition are the 3 P’s of diabetes, namely polyuria, polydipsia and polyphagia, which is increase in urination, thirst and hunger or appetite, respectively.

Diagnosing the condition at an early stage can save lives and also reduce the burden of the patients suffering from diabetes. Diagnosing can help in early treatment and hence the advancement of complications and diseases can be prevented.

Presence of these 3 P’s of diabetes is an early indication that the person is having higher blood sugar level and diabetes. However, in type 1 diabetes, all these three symptoms usually develop quickly and are obvious, making the diagnosis easier. But, in type 2 diabetes these 3 Ps are always subtle and it develops slowly, which makes it difficult to diagnose. Patients with type 2 diabetes often overlook the symptoms and hence they delay their diagnosis which may worsen the condition.

What are the 3 P's of Diabetes?

What are the 3 P’s of Diabetes?

Well, all the 3 P’s of diabetes usually shoot from high blood glucose levels. The glucose in blood is usually filtered by the kidneys and it is then absorbed back into the blood.

If the blood glucose level is higher, the kidneys can’t function efficiently to reabsorb all the sugar and hence it ends up in urine.

  • Polyuria – If there is high content of sugar in urine, excessive water from body is lost through urination and hence polyuria develops.
  • Polydipsia – The loss of excessive body water causes dehydration and this increases thirst, thus polydipsia develops.
  • Polyphagia – When there is lack of insulin production in body, which occurs in diabetes, it leads to poor absorption of blood sugar in body tissue and hence polyphagia develops. When there is lack of sugar in the body, it leads to decreased energy production and this increases your appetite and hunger resulting in polyphagia.

The main factor that revolves around the 3 P’s of diabetes is the high blood sugar, which is the case in diabetes.

Characteristics of 3 P’s of Diabetes

The 3 P’s of diabetes are the early symptoms that indicate that a person is suffering from diabetes. However, these symptoms are more prominent in Type 1 Diabetes compared to Type 2 Diabetes.


Polyuria is one of the 3 P’s of diabetes and the most common early symptom of undiagnosed or diagnosed diabetes. They usually have urgent urge to pass urine. The person will experience many sleepless nights due to frequent urination at night and even during the daytime. Their quantity of urine also increases suddenly.

When the level of blood sugar increases than its normal range, the body starts flushing out excessive blood glucose via kidney. In the process, the kidneys usually filter out excessive water from blood, which increases your urge to pass urine frequently. During the process of filtration, the kidneys are unable to absorb the required sugar for energy and large amount of sugar is lost in urination.


Polydipsia is one of the important 3 P’s of diabetes and is described as increased urge to drink water or feeling thirsty. This symptom of diabetes is usually linked with polyuria in diabetes mellitus. The underlying cause of this symptom is higher level of sugar in bloodstream. In diabetes, the kidneys usually flush out more sugar through increased urination.

The loss of body water due to frequent urination, results in dehydration which increases the thirst response in people. To satisfy your thirst you tend to drink lots of water and it is again excreted as urine by your kidneys in a bid to flush out the excessive sugar. Thus the process of increased thirst, drinking more water and increased urination continues in diabetes.


Polyphagia is basically a medical term that is used to describe excessive or abnormal appetite or hunger in people. Most diabetic patients usually have uncontrolled cravings for food and hence they tend to eat more frequently. Despite eating sufficient amount of food their hunger level tends to increase and make them feel hungry even after eating full meals.

The food consumed by normal people is usually converted into glucose that acts as energy source for the body cells. The pancreas produce insulin hormone in body that supports the passage of glucose to the body cells. But, in diabetic patients the pancreas never functions optimally and can’t produce sufficient insulin hormone to facilitate the passage of glucose to the cells and hence it keeps the body cells starving for glucose. The brain cells become aware about the cellular responses and trigger the center in hypothalamus to increase hunger and appetite. So, diabetic patients often remain hungry even after consuming full meals. Polyphagia is another commonest symptom of the 3 P’s of diabetes.

The 3 P’s of Diabetes and Warning Signs

If you experience the symptoms of 3 P’s of diabetes, it is advisable to seek medical opinion. Leaving the condition untreated can sometime leads to life-threatening metabolic crises, such as hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS) and Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Both these conditions are the presenting manifestations of undiagnosed diabetes and they can lead to death or coma.

So, it is necessary to know the warning signs of complications of untreated diabetes.

Apart from the 3 P’s of diabetes the other symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) include

Some of the symptoms of hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS) in addition to the 3 P’s of diabetes are:

  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Poor Concentration
  • Polydipsia
  • Extremely high blood glucose level.

With early symptoms and the 3 P’s of diabetes, early diagnosis can be made. Timely treatment can help to manage the condition well and prevent complications of diabetes.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 6, 2017

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