Diabetes means your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth.
Exposure to certain viral infections (mumps and Coxsackie viruses) or other environmental toxins may serve to trigger abnormal antibody responses that cause damage to the pancreas cells where insulin is made. Some of the antibodies seen in type 1 diabetes include anti-islet cell antibodies, anti-insulin antibodies and anti-glutamic decarboxylase antibodies. These antibodies can be detected in the majority of patients, and may help determine which individuals are at risk for developing type 1 diabetes.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Most cases of diabetes involve many genes, with each being a small contributor to an increased probability of becoming a type 2 diabetic.[10] If one identical twin has diabetes, the chance of the other developing diabetes within his lifetime is greater than 90%, while the rate for nonidentical siblings is 25–50%.[13] As of 2011, more than 36 genes had been found that contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes.[37] All of these genes together still only account for 10% of the total heritable component of the disease.[37] The TCF7L2 allele, for example, increases the risk of developing diabetes by 1.5 times and is the greatest risk of the common genetic variants.[13] Most of the genes linked to diabetes are involved in beta cell functions.[13]
You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. However, type 2 diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are age 45 or older, have a family history of diabetes, or are overweight or obese. Diabetes is more common in people who are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
In Type II diabetes, the pancreas may produce enough insulin, however, cells have become resistant to the insulin produced and it may not work as effectively. Symptoms of Type II diabetes can begin so gradually that a person may not know that he or she has it. Early signs are lethargy, extreme thirst, and frequent urination. Other symptoms may include sudden weight loss, slow wound healing, urinary tract infections, gum disease, or blurred vision. It is not unusual for Type II diabetes to be detected while a patient is seeing a doctor about another health concern that is actually being caused by the yet undiagnosed diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that blood sugars be 80mg/dL-130mg/dL before meals and less than or equal to 180mg/dL two hours after meals. Blood sugar targets are individualized based on a variety of factors such as age, length of diagnosis, if you have other health issues, etc. For example, if you are an elderly person, your targets maybe a bit higher than someone else. Ask your physician what targets are right for you.
People with glucose levels between normal and diabetic have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or insulin resistance. People with impaired glucose tolerance do not have diabetes, but are at high risk for progressing to diabetes. Each year, 1% to 5% of people whose test results show impaired glucose tolerance actually eventually develop diabetes. Weight loss and exercise may help people with impaired glucose tolerance return their glucose levels to normal. In addition, some physicians advocate the use of medications, such as metformin (Glucophage), to help prevent/delay the onset of overt diabetes.

One of the most common ways people with type 2 diabetes attempt to lower their blood sugar is by drastically reducing their intake of carbs. The ADA agrees that carbohydrate counting is essential if you have diabetes, but extreme diets like the ketogenic diet, which reduces carb intake to as little as 5 percent of your daily calories, can be risky for some people with diabetes. (36)

Another area of pathologic changes associated with diabetes mellitus is the nervous system (diabetic neuropathy), particularly in the peripheral nerves of the lower extremities. The patient typically experiences a “stocking-type” anesthesia beginning about 10 years after the onset of the disease. There may eventually be almost total anesthesia of the affected part with the potential for serious injury to the part without the patient being aware of it. In contrast, some patients experience debilitating pain and hyperesthesia, with loss of deep tendon reflexes.
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive, chronic disease related to your body's challenges with regulating blood sugar. It is often associated with generalized inflammation. Your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to convert sugar (glucose) to energy that you either use immediately or store. With type 2 diabetes, you are unable to use that insulin efficiently. Although your body produces the hormone, either there isn't enough of it to keep up with the amount of glucose in your system, or the insulin being produced isn't being used as well as it should be, both of which result in high blood sugar levels.
Regular insulin is fast-acting and starts to work within 15-30 minutes, with its peak glucose-lowering effect about two hours after it is injected. Its effects last for about four to six hours. NPH (neutral protamine Hagedorn) and Lente insulin are intermediate-acting, starting to work within one to three hours and lasting up to 18-26 hours. Ultra-lente is a long-acting form of insulin that starts to work within four to eight hours and lasts 28-36 hours.
A population-based, nationwide cohort study in Finland examined the short -and long-term time trends in mortality among patients with early-onset and late-onset type 1 diabetes. The results suggest that in those with early-onset type 1 diabetes (age 0-14 y), survival has improved over time. Survival of those with late-onset type 1 diabetes (15-29 y) has deteriorated since the 1980s, and the ratio of deaths caused by acute complications has increased in this group. Overall, alcohol was noted as an important cause of death in patients with type 1 diabetes; women had higher standardized mortality ratios than did men in both groups. [38]
Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This blood test indicates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The higher your blood sugar levels, the more hemoglobin you'll have with sugar attached. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates you have diabetes. A result between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes, which indicates a high risk of developing diabetes. Normal levels are below 5.7 percent.
When you have diabetes, it’s important to avoid eating many packaged, processed snacks such as cookies, chips, cake, granola bars, and the like, in lieu of fresh, whole foods, like fiber-rich fruits, veggies, and whole grains. (27) Eating foods high in fiber can help keep blood sugar levels steady and fill you up, potentially promoting weight loss and improving insulin sensitivity. (28)
Then, once you do have an injury, uncontrolled diabetes can make it harder for your body to heal. “High blood sugars provide a good environment for bacteria to grow,” she says. That's because diabetes is also often accompanied by high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the resulting plaque buildup can narrow blood vessels, reducing blood supply and leading to slow healing.
A 2018 study suggested that three types should be abandoned as too simplistic.[57] It classified diabetes into five subgroups, with what is typically described as type 1 and autoimmune late-onset diabetes categorized as one group, whereas type 2 encompasses four categories. This is hoped to improve diabetes treatment by tailoring it more specifically to the subgroups.[58]
Keeping track of the number of calories provided by different foods can become complicated, so patients usually are advised to consult a nutritionist or dietitian. An individualized, easy to manage diet plan can be set up for each patient. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association recommend diets based on the use of food exchange lists. Each food exchange contains a known amount of calories in the form of protein, fat, or carbohydrate. A patient's diet plan will consist of a certain number of exchanges from each food category (meat or protein, fruits, breads and starches, vegetables, and fats) to be eaten at meal times and as snacks. Patients have flexibility in choosing which foods they eat as long as they stick with the number of exchanges prescribed.
In this health topic, we discuss hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS), an extremely serious complication that can lead to diabetic coma and even death in type 2 diabetes. This serious condition occurs when the blood sugar gets too high and the body becomes severely dehydrated. To prevent HHNS and diabetic coma in type 2 diabetes, check your blood sugar regularly as recommended by your health care provider; check your blood sugar more frequently when you are sick, drink plenty of fluids, and watch for signs of dehydration.
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