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Home arrow Health arrow Diabetes arrow The 3 P's of Diabetes Explained

The 3 P's of Diabetes Explained

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 12, 2023
8 min read 1450 Views 0 Comments
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Recognizing diabetes symptoms can help with diagnosing it as early as possible. The longer diabetes is left untreated, the worse it can get. Here we discuss the 3 p’s of diabetes to enhance your ability to detect diabetes as soon as possible. We cover diabetes testing, when to see a doctor, and the best management solutions.

3 p's of diabetes

Are you familiar with the three p’s of diabetes? If not, recognizing these three common symptoms can help you detect if you have high blood glucose levels.

High blood glucose levels indicate diabetes or prediabetes, and spotting it early can prevent complications or reduce your risk of developing the full-blown condition.

Diabetes can result from two problems – the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or the body cannot use insulin as well as it should. Either way, the result is excess glucose in the bloodstream.

Keep reading for a full explanation of the three p’s.

3 P’s of Diabetes

The three p’s, or the three polys, stand for polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia. They often co-occur and are recognized as three of the main symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes. As with many health conditions, early diagnosis is beneficial.

So, what are they?

#1 Polydipsia

The definition of polydipsia is abnormal thirst as a symptom of a disease or psychological disturbance. If you have polydipsia, you ultimately have excessive thirst. You may feel thirsty even after consuming plenty of water and have a chronic dry mouth.

Polydipsia is not always a sign of diabetes, but when it is, the cause is due to increased blood glucose levels. The high blood glucose forces the kidneys to work harder as they try to filter and absorb the excess glucose. When they fail to do so, the excess glucose is released via urine.

Excessive urination excretes fluids and leaves you with increased thirst from dehydration. As polydipsia causes individuals to increase fluid intake and drink excessively in a bid to relieve their thirst, the condition typically leads to polyuria.

Outside of diabetes, causes of polydipsia include medications, high sodium intake, and psychogenic polydipsia. Psychogenic polydipsia is when mental illness causes the uncontrollable urge to drink water.

#2 Polyuria

Polyuria is the medical term for excessive urine production. If you have polyuria, you will experience frequent urination and pass large amounts. A person with polyuria passes more urine in a day than what is considered normal.

On average, adults produce around 1–2 liters of urine per day. In comparison, people with polyuria pass more than 3 liters per day.

Frequent urination is typically caused by consuming copious amounts of water and other fluids (polydipsia). Beverages containing alcohol and caffeine are particular triggers for producing more urine.

Ordinarily, the kidneys filter the blood to produce urine. They absorb the blood sugar and enable it to re-enter the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels are abnormally high, the kidneys cannot reabsorb the additional sugar, which winds up in the urine, causing frequent urination. Excessive blood glucose in the urine is known as glycosuria.

Besides diabetes, possible causes of polyuria include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • Hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood)
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications (such as calcium channel blockers and diuretics)

#3 Polyphagia

Polyphagia is the final medical term within the three p’s of diabetes and refers to excessive hunger. In many cases, feeling hungry is a completely normal feeling. A broad range of factors can contribute to hunger, such as dieting, exercise, and specific medications that inadvertently stimulate appetite.

However, polyphagia is a prevalent symptom of diabetes mellitus. The cause of the increased appetite comes down to blood glucose levels that are too high. The extra glucose cannot enter cells and convert to energy due to insulin resistance or a lack of insulin.

As the food you eat can’t provide energy, you continue to feel hungry no matter what you eat. After eating you also may feel tired.

Experiencing frequent hunger doesn’t necessarily mean you have diabetes. As mentioned above, lifestyle and medication can contribute to appetite. Additionally, the following health conditions can contribute to hunger:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels)
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels)
  • Mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder
  • PMS (premenstrual syndrome)

What Are the Possible Symptoms of Diabetes?

The possible symptoms of diabetes are not solely associated with the three p’s, although they provide a good indicator for diagnosing diabetes. You may experience polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia all at once, or you may experience the conditions individually.

Aside from the three p’s, there are other diabetes symptoms (both type 1 and type 2) that you can look out for. Other symptoms include:

  • Weight loss that other factors cannot explain
  • Fatigue and feeling tired
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling irritable
  • Sores, wounds, and bruises that take a long time to heal
  • Recurring infections such as skin and vaginal infections
  • High levels of ketones detected in the liver. This can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition where ketones build up in the body.

Tests to Diagnose Diabetes

If you think you may be experiencing diabetes signs, it is crucial to seek professional medical advice. You can book a visit with your doctor, who can perform special tests to make an official diagnosis.

Diabetes testing requires blood tests that measure your blood glucose levels. Testing determines whether you have normal blood glucose levels, diabetes, or if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Here is an explanation of the available diabetes tests.

A1C test

The A1C test is a blood test that measures your blood sugar level on average over the previous three months. A normal A1C result is below 5.7%, a reading between 5.7–6.4% suggests prediabetes, and 6.5% or over indicates diabetes.

Fasting blood sugar test

The fasting test requires that you abstain from food overnight before taking the measurement. A normal fasting blood sugar level is 99mg/dL or lower, prediabetes is 100–125mg/dL, and diabetes is identified by a reading of 126mg/dL or higher.

Glucose tolerance test

This test monitors your blood sugar levels before and after drinking a glucose-containing fluid. Like the fasting blood sugar test, the glucose tolerance test requires an overnight fast.

It takes slightly longer than the other tests, as your blood sugar is checked after one, two, and sometimes three hours from drinking the glucose solution. 200mg/dL or higher determines diabetes, 140–199mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and 140mg/dL or lower is considered a normal blood sugar level.

The oral glucose test is the test used to screen for gestational diabetes.

Random blood sugar test

The random plasma glucose test does not require any kind of preparation. A medical professional can check your blood sugar at any time to determine if you have diabetes. A diabetes diagnosis is a blood sugar level of 200mg/dL or higher.

When to See a Doctor

If you are concerned diabetes could be the underlying cause of your symptoms, you should alert your doctor and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Healthcare is especially important if you are experiencing one or more of the most common symptoms (the three p’s) over an extended period.

While excessive thirst, urination, and hunger are notoriously associated with diabetes, there are other causes. Your healthcare provider can quickly confirm or rule out diabetes and prediabetes and assist you further. It’s always best to get checked and find out for certain.

Managing Prediabetes and Diabetes

Following a prediabetes diagnosis, there are immediate steps you can take to prevent yourself from developing diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, high blood sugar levels can return to normal with moderate lifestyle changes. Eating healthily and increasing your daily physical activity are among the top preventative measures for diabetes.

Although there is no cure for diabetic patients, you can treat and control the condition by managing blood sugar levels with a healthy diet, exercise, regular monitoring, and maintaining a healthy weight.

The Klinio app provides a proactive step to managing your overall health. The personalized meal plan covers calories, macros, and the amount of sugar and cholesterol your body needs. You can find tailored programs that teach you how to navigate diabetes and prediabetes, as well as other chronic conditions like high blood pressure and anemia.

Klinio also offers users a diabetes management book that makes diabetes management simple, with tips, recipes, grocery lists, and educational articles. In a nutshell, Klinio can provide you with the tools to start and sustain healthy habits.

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What causes the 3 p’s of diabetes?

The three p’s essentially come down to two things; elevated blood glucose levels in the body and insulin resistance. The kidneys remove excess glucose from the blood via urine, increasing urination and thirst. Polyphagia occurs when the body cannot produce insulin to enable glucose to enter cells.

What are the main signs of hyperglycemia?

The main symptoms of hyperglycemia are the three p’s (polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia). The medical terms define excessive thirst, urinating more than average, and an increased appetite. Other symptoms of high blood glucose include blurred vision, fatigue, and fruity-smelling breath.

What is a high glucose level?

A high glucose level, also known as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia, is when the amount of sugar in the blood is too high. A high glucose level is a blood sugar reading of more than 200mg/dL. This result indicates that the individual has diabetes.

A Word From Our MD

The three p’s are polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia. The names correspond to frequent thirst, urination, and hunger and are among the most common symptoms of diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when there is too much sugar in your blood. It affects your body’s ability to convert food into energy and can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.

Diabetes symptoms tend to develop quickly in persons with type 1 diabetes. However, they may occur more slowly with type 2 diabetes, making diagnosis more difficult.

If you notice the three p’s over a period, it is essential to acquire medical attention for an evaluation. Healthcare professionals can perform tests that confirm whether or not you have high glucose levels. Catching it early can allow you to combat prediabetes or prevent the disease from getting worse.


The three p’s of diabetes (polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia) are the top three symptoms to look out for to detect possible diabetes. It’s common for all three to occur at once, but not every person will experience all three together.

You should visit your doctor if you develop any or all of the three p’s. That way, you can get an accurate diagnosis through proper testing. If the result is diabetes or prediabetes, the Klinio app can help. With the virtual tool, you can actively monitor and regain control of your health to make the condition as easy to handle as possible.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 12, 2023
8 min read 1450 Views 0 Comments

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