Type 2 diabetes classifies as a chronic condition. Sometimes referred to as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes changes the body’s metabolism of glucose. Insulin—a hormone responsible for converting glucose into energy—no longer effectively breaks down the glucose. Instead, the bloodstream contains increasing amounts of insulin and sugar. As the pancreas works harder to pump out insulin to lower blood sugar, it sustains damage and may stop producing enough insulin. All forms of diabetes can be life threatening without proper medical treatment.
Type 2 diabetes has several risk factors that contribute to the development of the disease. Some of these causes are genetic and others are lifestyle choices. Risk factors that contribute to diabetes development include:
- Age over 45, though more young people are developing type 2
- High blood pressure
- Family history of close relatives with diabetes
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Ethnicity–Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans have high type 2 rates
- HDL cholesterol lower than 35 mg or triglycerides greater than 250 mg
- Gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby that weighs greater than 9 lbs
Type 2 diabetics may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Some of the symptoms are subtle and easily blamed on other factors, such as age. The American Diabetes Association lists the following possible symptoms for type 2:
- Excessive thirst
- Feeling unusually hungry
- Unaccountable weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Recurring or frequent infections, especially concerning the skin, gums or bladder
- Slow healing of skin wounds and bruises
- Blurry vision
- Fatigue and irritability beyond normal
Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms, and especially those at risk for developing the disease, should seek medical guidance and testing. Early treatment can delay complications associated with diabetes.
Diagnosing type 2 diabetes usually involves a combination of tests. The first test usually performed is a random blood glucose test using a common glucose meter. Levels over 200 suggest diabetes, but even elevated levels will prompt more testing. A fasting blood glucose test may be next. This involves testing in the morning before eating using a glucose monitor. Readings from 100 to 125 are pre-diabetic and 126 and over is in the diabetic range. Two fasting test with diabetic results can result in a diagnosis, but other tests usually help confirm it.
An oral glucose tolerance test or a glycated hemoglobin, A1C, test may be preformed. The former involves fasting and then drinking a glucose solution. Blood glucose levels are then tested and a reading over 200 after two hours indicates diabetes. An A1C test measures the average amount of glucose in the bloodstream over a period of a couple of months by testing for hemoglobin with blood sugar attached. A result of over 6.5 on the A1C duplicated in a repeat test is enough to diagnose diabetes.
American Diabetes Association: Type 2
MayoClinic.com: Type 2 Diabetes
MedLinePlus:Type 2 Diabetes