Is type 2 diabetes serious? Type 2 diabetes is not a death sentence, but it is a very serious disease that demands attention and careful monitoring. There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes. Elevated glucose levels can damage the nervous system, blood vessels, eyes, heart, and kidneys. These complications really impact quality of life (through blindness, amputations, dialysis etc). They also significantly increase the chance of a stroke or heart attack. Managing blood glucose levels immediately, along with other health risk factors (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure, weight), is necessary for preventing these complications. Losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off can also improve glucose control as well as have other clinical benefits (read more tips on managing diet and exercise below for more on weight loss). Keep in mind that better diabetes management also has benefits in the here and now – mood and energy levels are adversely affected when your glucose levels are high.
Weight fluctuations also fall under the umbrella of possible diabetes signs and symptoms. When you lose sugar through frequent urination, you also lose calories. At the same time, diabetes may keep the sugar from your food from reaching your cells — leading to constant hunger. The combined effect is potentially rapid weight loss, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes can also be diagnosed if a blood glucose level taken any time of the day without regards to meals is 11.1 mmol/L or higher, plus you have symptoms characteristic of diabetes (e.g., increase thirst, increase urination, unexplained weight loss). A doctor may also examine the eyes for signs of damage to the blood vessels of the retina (back of the eye). Finally, diabetes mellitus is diagnosed if the 3-month cumulative blood sugar average test, known as hemoglobin A1C or glycated hemoglobin, is 6.5% or higher.
To diagnose diabetes, doctors will take a medical history (ask you about symptoms) and ask for blood and urine samples. Finding protein and sugar in the urine are signs of type 2 diabetes. Increased glucose and triglyceride (a type of lipid or fat) levels in the blood are also common findings. In most cases, blood glucose levels are checked after a person has been fasting for 8 hours.
Say that two people have the same genetic mutation. One of them eats well, watches their cholesterol, and stays physically fit, and the other is overweight (BMI greater than 25) and inactive. The person who is overweight and inactive is much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes because certain lifestyle choices greatly influence how well your body uses insulin.
People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance, which means the body cannot use insulin properly to help glucose get into the cells. In people with type 2 diabetes, insulin doesn’t work well in muscle, fat, and other tissues, so your pancreas (the organ that makes insulin) starts to put out a lot more of it to try and compensate. "This results in high insulin levels in the body,” says Fernando Ovalle, MD, director of the multidisciplinary diabetes clinic at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. This insulin level sends signals to the brain that your body is hungry.
Type 2 diabetes, which is often diagnosed when a person has an A1C of at least 7 on two separate occasions, can lead to potentially serious issues, like neuropathy, or nerve damage; vision problems; an increased risk of heart disease; and other diabetes complications. A person’s A1C is the two- to three-month average of his or her blood sugar levels.