Diabetes mellitus is a diagnostic term for a group of disorders characterized by abnormal glucose homeostasis resulting in elevated blood sugar. There is variability in its manifestations, wherein some individuals have only asymptomatic glucose intolerance, while others present acutely with diabetic ketoacidosis, and still others develop chronic complications such as nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, or accelerated atherosclerosis. It is among the most common of chronic disorders, affecting up to 5–10% of the adult population of the Western world. Its prevalence varies over the globe, with certain populations, including some American Indian tribes and the inhabitants of Micronesia and Polynesia, having extremely high rates of diabetes (1,2). The prevalence of diabetes is increasing dramatically and it has been estimated that the worldwide prevalence will increase by more than 50% between the years 2000 and 2030 (3).
Before blood glucose levels rise, the body of a person destined for type 2 becomes resistant to insulin, much as bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. Insulin is the signal for the muscles, fat, and liver to absorb glucose from the blood. As the body becomes resistant to insulin, the beta cells in the pancreas must pump out more of the hormone to compensate. People with beta cells that can't keep up with insulin resistance develop the high blood glucose of type 2 diabetes.
A random blood sugar of greater than 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl) in association with typical symptoms or a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of ≥ 48 mmol/mol (≥ 6.5 DCCT %) is another method of diagnosing diabetes. In 2009 an International Expert Committee that included representatives of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) recommended that a threshold of ≥ 48 mmol/mol (≥ 6.5 DCCT %) should be used to diagnose diabetes. This recommendation was adopted by the American Diabetes Association in 2010. Positive tests should be repeated unless the person presents with typical symptoms and blood sugars >11.1 mmol/l (>200 mg/dl).
There are other factors that also fall into the category of environmental (as opposed to genetic) causes of diabetes. Certain injuries to the pancreas, from physical trauma or from drugs, can harm beta cells, leading to diabetes. Studies have also found that people who live in polluted areas are prone to type 2, perhaps because of inflammation. And an alternate theory of insulin resistance places the blame on damage caused by inflammation. Age also factors into type 2; beta cells can wear out over time and become less capable of producing enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, which is why older people are at greater risk of type 2.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition of blood sugar dysregulation. In general blood sugar is too high, but it also can be too low. This can happen if you take medications then skip a meal. Blood sugar also can rise very quickly after a high glycemic index meal, and then fall a few hours later, plummeting into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can include
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.