Look for these symptoms (and don’t skip your annual screening).
About 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Even more staggering: Of the 30 million American adults who have diabetes, one in four don’t know they have it yet, which puts them at great risk for developing further complications.
One of the best ways to reduce your odds of developing diabetes: Get familiar with why type 2 diabetes happens (and what it looks like when it does).
While patients with type 1 diabetes cannot produce any insulin, those with type 2 diabetes become resistant to the insulin in their body, according to Minisha Sood, MD, an endocrinologist in New York City. “They do make insulin, but it doesn’t get the job done very well, so they have to make pretty high levels of insulin to normalize their blood glucose levels.” (Learn more about the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes here.)
This high level of insulin production puts a strain on the pancreas. “Eventually, their pancreas gets to the point where they can’t really keep up with that demand, and so their blood sugars start to rise,” says Dr. Sood.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes risk depends on many of these following factors, according to Sonal Chaudhry, MD, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
Age: The ADA recommends annual screening for type 2 diabetes starting at age 45—or earlier if you have other risk factors.
Race and ethnicity: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Family history: Having a parent or close relative with diabetes increases your likelihood based on similarities in genetics and lifestyle habits.
Weight: Having a body mass index that is considered overweight or obese increases your type 2 diabetes risk. Learn more about weight loss for diabetes here.
Sedentary lifestyle: One study found that men who watched more than 40 hours of TV a week were three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who watched under an hour a week.
Gestational diabetes: If you had gestational diabetes during a pregnancy, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later on.
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
It’s common for patients with type 2 diabetes to not experience any symptoms, especially early on, according to Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, an internist in New York City. For those that do, here are the textbook signs of diabetes to look for.
Lethargy and fatigue
Diagnosing Type 2 Diabetes
“Doctors can assess your blood sugar in a number of different ways,” says Dr. Chaudhry. These include the A1C test, fasting blood glucose test, and glucose tolerance test.
A hemoglobin A1C test measures the average blood sugar over the course of two to three months. A number higher than 6.5 is consistent with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. (Here’s more information about the A1C test.)
Fasting blood glucose refers to how much glucose is in the bloodstream when you haven’t eaten for eight hours. “If that number is higher than 126, that’s also consistent with diabetes,” says Dr. Chaudhry.
A glucose tolerance test compares your fasting blood glucose with your blood sugar reading after drinking 75 grams of glucose. If the second reading exceeds 200 mg/dL, this is also a sign of type 2 diabetes.
While a type 2 diabetes diagnosis often requires many lifestyle adjustments, it can also be an opportunity to reassess your health and reprioritize your goals. To get started, here are rules for a healthy diabetic diet, tips for exercising with diabetes, and lifestyle changes to manage blood sugar.
Dr. Chaudhry is an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City.Minisha Sood
Dr. Sood is a board-certified endocrinologist in private practice in New York City and an assistant professor at Hofstra School of Medicine.Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe
Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe is an internist and health media expert in New York City.
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Type 2 diabetes is very common and up to
one-third of patients don't realize they
00:00:06,820 --> 00:00:11,340
have diabetes because symptoms of mildly
elevated blood sugar are not significant.
00:00:11,340 --> 00:00:14,138
00:00:14,138 --> 00:00:17,010
Patients with type 2 diabetes
are resistant to insulin.
00:00:17,010 --> 00:00:21,360
So they do make insulin but it doesn't get
the job done very well done, so they have
00:00:21,360 --> 00:00:26,220
to make pretty high levels of insulin to
normalize their blood glucose levels.
00:00:26,220 --> 00:00:29,460
Eventually their pancreas gets to
the point where they can't really keep up
00:00:29,460 --> 00:00:32,280
with that demand, and so
their blood sugar starts to rise.
00:00:32,280 --> 00:00:37,770
Factors that increase one's risk
of type 2 diabetes are age, race,
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ethnicity, family history,
being overweight or
00:00:42,700 --> 00:00:47,720
obese, a sedentary lifestyle, if you've
had gestational diabetes previously.
00:00:47,720 --> 00:00:51,680
All these things can increase your risk of
insulin resistance and pre-diabetes and
00:00:51,680 --> 00:00:53,290
type 2 diabetes.
00:00:53,290 --> 00:00:56,980
Sometimes patients may
have no symptoms at all.
00:00:56,980 --> 00:01:02,470
But when they do have symptoms, here
are the mainstay symptoms to look out for.
00:01:02,470 --> 00:01:07,820
Increased urination, that's one thing
that patients will complain a lot about.
00:01:07,820 --> 00:01:12,450
Increased thirst is something else
that patients will complain about, and
00:01:12,450 --> 00:01:15,770
just feeling very hungry all the time.
00:01:15,770 --> 00:01:19,230
Other symptoms to be
aware of are lethargy,
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which just means you're always fatigued,
00:01:24,140 --> 00:01:27,970
Another symptom that patients do
complain about, blurry vision.
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Sometimes with these excess sugars,
it does affect the eyes, so
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it can cause some
blurriness in the vision.
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I had had some issues with my vision,
and I didn't know what was going on.
00:01:38,550 --> 00:01:43,550
And when I went to my eye doctor he said,
do you have type 2 diabetes?
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I said, I don't think so.
00:01:45,020 --> 00:01:48,260
Doctors can assess your blood
sugar in a number of different ways.
00:01:48,260 --> 00:01:50,580
One test is the hemoglobin A1C.
00:01:50,580 --> 00:01:53,640
This test measures your average
blood sugar of the preceding two to
00:01:53,640 --> 00:01:54,720
00:01:54,720 --> 00:02:00,210
If this number is higher that 6.5,
it's consistent with type 2 diabetes.
00:02:00,210 --> 00:02:03,120
They can also measure your
fasting plasma glucose.
00:02:03,120 --> 00:02:05,810
And they ask you to fast for
eight hours, so nothing to eat or
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drink except for water, and
check your blood sugar.
00:02:08,970 --> 00:02:14,200
If that number is higher than 126,
that's also consistent with diabetes.
00:02:14,200 --> 00:02:18,580
They may ask you to do a glucose tolerance
test, where they will measure your fasting
00:02:18,580 --> 00:02:22,060
blood sugar, and
then ask you to drink 75 grams of glucose,
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and remeasure your
glucose two hours later.
00:02:25,120 --> 00:02:27,960
If that glucose two hours
later exceeds some 200,
00:02:27,960 --> 00:02:31,620
that's also consistent with
the diagnosis of diabetes.
00:02:31,620 --> 00:02:35,440
Diabetes in many cases
is a life-long issue.
00:02:35,440 --> 00:02:39,310
It really changes someone lifestyle,
it changes how they think about food, and
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activity, and their bodies,
and suddenly the need to
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gain control of their health is a reality
that they weren't ready to face.
00:02:48,230 --> 00:02:52,200
But it's also an opportunity to examine
what's going on in their lives.
00:02:52,200 --> 00:02:53,540
Maybe they're stressed, and
00:02:53,540 --> 00:02:56,920
maybe they're not as invested
in self-care as they need to be.
00:02:56,920 --> 00:03:01,810
And so many times the conversation
results in me helping somebody
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examine their sleep, their stress levels,
their diet, their exercise.
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And they usually leave the encounter
feeling pretty hopeful.