Diabetes: The ‘strong-smelling’ sign of high blood sugar that can ‘cling to clothing’

High blood sugar: What are the warning signs?

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Diabetes is widely perceived as a life-long chronic condition, but where the lifestyle is the cause, some cases can be reversed. If blood sugar levels become chronically high, however, bodily changes are bound to occur. In some people, this may cause drastic changes in the odour of urine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, strong sweet-smelling urine could be a sign of advanced diabetes.

The health body explains: “Strong-smelling urine has several possible causes. One possibility, diabetes, is a serious medical concern.

“One other consideration is urine leakage/incontinence. When this occurs, the smell may seem stronger than usual because it clings to clothing.”

There is evidence that women living with diabetes have up to a 70 percent higher risk of urinary incontinence.

READ MORE: Diabetes type 2 symptoms: The signs in your hands and feet warning of high blood sugar

This is believed to be due in part to nerve damage incurred by high blood sugar levels, in what’s called neuropathy.

But strong-smelling urine is one of many odours diabetics experience.


In severe uncontrolled cases of diabetes, known as diabetic ketoacidosis, the body breaks down fatty acids for fuel, according to WebMD.

A byproduct of the fat burning process is ketones, which can build up in the blood.

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High ketone levels can leave a distinctive fruity smell in body odour and breath.

The build-up of acidic chemicals in the blood can be hugely detrimental to the body, so receiving swift medical treatment is imperative.

Body odour

According to the NHS, things that can make body odour worse include exercise, hot weather, hormonal changes, being overweight, and having a condition like diabetes.

Doctor Christopher Dietz, of MedExpress, explained: “Many of my patients think it’s sweat that smells – but sweat itself is actually odourless.

“However, it can indirectly cause body odour. That’s because one type of sweat that our bodies produce is rich in fat.

“Bacteria that is naturally found on our skin breaks down this in fat-rich sweat and produces the range of smells we associate with body odour.”

He goes on to explain that some metabolic disorders, like diabetes, can certainly affect how a person smells.

He continued: “If you’re worried about body odour, or notice sudden changes in body odour, it’s always a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional.”

Increased thirst, increased appetite and increased urination are usually among the first symptoms diabetics notices.

In the advanced stages, however, nerve damage from high blood sugar levels can cause strange sensations.

People may notice tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation in the hands or feet.

Treating symptoms as they arise is critical for avoiding further complications, such as amputation.

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