A variety of symptoms may be associated with type 2 diabetes and its complications. Symptoms in chronic diseases may be described in terms of prevalence, severity, and trajectory and often co-occur in groups, known as symptom clusters, which may be representative of a common etiology. The purpose of this study was to characterize type 2 diabetes–related symptoms using a large nationwide electronic health record (EHR) database.


We acquired the Cerner Health Facts, a nationwide EHR database. The type 2 diabetes cohort (n = 1,136,301 patients) was identified using a rule-based phenotype method. A multistep procedure was then used to identify type 2 diabetes–related symptoms based on International Classification of Diseases, 9th and 10th revisions, diagnosis codes. Type 2 diabetes–related symptoms and co-occurring symptom clusters, including their temporal patterns, were characterized based the longitudinal EHR data.


Patients had a mean age of 61.4 years, 51.2% were female, and 70.0% were White. Among 1,136,301 patients, there were 8,008,276 occurrences of 59 symptoms. The most frequently reported symptoms included pain, heartburn, shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling, which occurred in 21–60% of the patients. We also observed over-represented type 2 diabetes symptoms, including difficulty speaking, feeling confused, trouble remembering, weakness, and drowsiness/sleepiness. Some of these are rare and difficult to detect by traditional patient-reported outcomes studies.


To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to use a nationwide EHR database to characterize type 2 diabetes–related symptoms and their temporal patterns. Fifty-nine symptoms, including both over-represented and rare diabetes-related symptoms, were identified.

V.B., M.W., and X.W. contributed equally to this study.

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