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. 

The most common test used to diagnose diabetes is the fasting blood glucose. This test measures the glucose levels at a specific moment in time (normal is 80-110 mg/dl). In managing diabetes, the goal is to normalize blood glucose levels. It is generally accepted that by maintaining normalized blood glucose levels, one may delay or even prevent some of the complications associated with diabetes. Measures to manage diabetes include behavioral modification (proper diet, exercise) and drug therapies (oral hypoglycemics, insulin replacement). The choice of therapy prescribed takes into consideration the type and severity of the disease present and patient compliance. The physician may request the patient keep a log of their daily blood glucose measurements, in an effort to better assess therapeutic success. Another commonly obtained test is the hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which is a surrogate marker used to assess blood glucose levels over an extended period (2-3 months). This test provides the physician with a good picture of the patient’s glucose levels over time.
Diagnosis. The most common diagnostic tests for diabetes are chemical analyses of the blood such as the fasting plasma glucose. Capillary blood glucose monitoring can be used for screening large segments of the population. Portable equipment is available and only one drop of blood from the fingertip or earlobe is necessary. Capillary blood glucose levels have largely replaced analysis of the urine for glucose. Testing for urinary glucose can be problematic as the patient may have a high renal threshold, which would lead to a negative reading for urinary glucose when in fact the blood glucose level was high.
Persons with diabetes are prone to infection, delayed healing, and vascular disease. The ease with which poorly controlled diabetic persons develop an infection is thought to be due in part to decreased chemotaxis of leukocytes, abnormal phagocyte function, and diminished blood supply because of atherosclerotic changes in the blood vessels. An impaired blood supply means a deficit in the protective defensive cells transported in the blood. Excessive glucose allows organisms to grow out of control.
Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.
FIGURE 19-1 ■. This figure shows the hyperbolic relationship of insulin resistance and beta cell function. On the y-axis is beta cell function as reflected in the first-phase insulin response during intravenous (IV) glucose infusion; on the x-axis is insulin sensitivity and its mirror image resistance. In a subject with normal glucose tolerance (NGT) and beta-cell reserve, an increase in insulin resistance results in increased insulin release and normal glucose tolerance. In an individual for whom the capacity to increase insulin release is compromised, increasing insulin resistance with partial or no beta-cell compensation results in progression from normal glucose tolerance, to impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and finally to diabetes (T2D). Differences between these categories are small at high insulin sensitivity, which may be maintained by weight reduction, exercise, and certain drugs. At a critical degree of insulin resistance, due to obesity or other listed factors, only a further small increment in resistance requires a large increase in insulin output. Those that can increase insulin secretion to this extent retain normal glucose tolerance; those who cannot achieve this degree of insulin secretion (e.g., due to a mild defect in genes regulating insulin synthesis, insulin secretion, insulin action, or an ongoing immune destruction of beta cells) now unmask varying degrees of carbohydrate intolerance. The product of insulin sensitivity (the reciprocal of insulin resistance) and acute insulin response (a measurement beta-cell function) has been called the “disposition index.” This index remains constant in an individual with normal beta cell compensation in response to changes in insulin resistance. IGT, impaired glucose tolerance; NGT, normal glucose tolerance; T2D, type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are too high to be considered normal but not high enough to be labeled diabetes. People have prediabetes if their fasting blood glucose level is between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL or if their blood glucose level 2 hours after a glucose tolerance test is between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL. Prediabetes carries a higher risk of future diabetes as well as heart disease. Decreasing body weight by 5 to 10% through diet and exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing future diabetes.
Dietary factors also influence the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in excess is associated with an increased risk.[32][33] The type of fats in the diet are important, with saturated fats and trans fatty acids increasing the risk, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat decreasing the risk.[26] Eating a lot of white rice appears to play a role in increasing risk.[34] A lack of exercise is believed to cause 7% of cases.[35] Persistent organic pollutants may play a role.[36]
A chronic metabolic disorder marked by hyperglycemia. DM results either from failure of the pancreas to produce insulin (type 1 DM) or from insulin resistance, with inadequate insulin secretion to sustain normal metabolism (type 2 DM). Either type of DM may damage blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, the retina, and the developing fetus and the placenta during pregnancy. Type 1 or insulin-dependent DM has a prevalence of just 0.3 to 0.4%. Type 2 DM (formerly called adult-onset DM) has a prevalence in the general population of 6.6%. In some populations (such as older persons, Native Americans, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Mexican Americans), it is present in nearly 20% of adults. Type 2 DM primarily affects obese middle-aged people with sedentary lifestyles, whereas type 1 DM usually occurs in children, most of whom are active and thin, although extremely obese children are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as well. See: table; dawn phenomenon; insulin; insulin pump; insulin resistance; diabetic polyneuropathy; Somogyi phenomenon
The notion is understandable. Blood sugar levels are high in diabetes, so a common idea has held that eating sugar somehow triggers the disease process. However, the major diabetes organizations take a different view. The American Diabetes Association1 and Diabetes UK2 have labelled this notion a “myth,” as has the Joslin Diabetes Center,3 which wrote, “Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar.” These and other organizations have worked to educate people about the causes of diabetes and the role that foods play in the disease process.
Doctors may recommend one or more types of medications to help control diabetes. While taking medications, it's important for people with diabetes to regularly test their blood glucose levels at home. There are many different blood glucose meters available on the market. Speak to a doctor or pharmacist about these meters to help you select the best meter for your needs.
Diabetes develops when the body can't make any or enough insulin, and/or when it can't properly use the insulin it makes. For some people with diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin. In these cases, insulin is still produced, but the body does not respond to the effects of insulin as it should. This is called insulin resistance. Whether from not enough insulin or the inability to use insulin properly, the result is high levels of glucose in the blood, or hyperglycemia.
If you are symptomatic (e.g., increased thirst or urination, unexplained weight loss), your doctor may only use a single test to diagnose diabetes/prediabetes. If you don't have any symptoms, one high blood glucose test doesn't necessarily mean you have diabetes/prediabetes. Your doctor will repeat one of the blood tests again on another day (generally 1 week later) to confirm the diagnosis.
Insulin — the hormone that allows your body to regulate sugar in the blood — is made in your pancreas. Essentially, insulin resistance is a state in which the body’s cells do not use insulin efficiently. As a result, it takes more insulin than normal to transport blood sugar (glucose) into cells, to be used immediately for fuel or stored for later use. A drop in efficiency in getting glucose to cells creates a problem for cell function; glucose is normally the body’s quickest and most readily available source of energy.
Other studies have focused, not on sugar overall but specifically on sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages. Many have found no significant relationship, apart from sugar’s extra calories that lead to weight gain. For example, the Women’s Health Study,8 the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study,9 the Black Women’s Health Study,10 and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis found no significant associations between sugar consumption and diabetes risk after adjustment for measures of body weight. Some studies have had mixed results, exonerating sucrose, but indicting glucose and fructose.12,13 And some studies have shown associations between sugar-sweetened beverages and diabetes that persist after adjustment for body weight.14,15

Unexplained weight loss can happen for lots of reasons, and diabetes is one of them. Goundan explains that insulin helps your body move sugar from your blood to your cells, so when you have an insulin resistance, you don’t get enough energy into your cells despite all that sugar flowing through your body. “Because you’re unable to get enough energy from sugar, your body burns your own fat and muscle for energy," Kellis says. "Weight loss can be pretty significant, sometimes 10 to 20 pounds."
Metformin is generally recommended as a first line treatment for type 2 diabetes, as there is good evidence that it decreases mortality.[6] It works by decreasing the liver's production of glucose.[87] Several other groups of drugs, mostly given by mouth, may also decrease blood sugar in type II DM. These include agents that increase insulin release, agents that decrease absorption of sugar from the intestines, and agents that make the body more sensitive to insulin.[87] When insulin is used in type 2 diabetes, a long-acting formulation is usually added initially, while continuing oral medications.[6] Doses of insulin are then increased to effect.[6][88]
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.
Exercise is very important if you have this health condition. Exercise makes cells more insulin sensitive, pulling glucose out of the blood. This brings down blood sugar, and more importantly, gives you better energy because the glucose is being transferred to the cells. Any type of exercise will do this, but extra benefit is gained when the activity helps build muscle, such as weight training or using resistance bands. The benefits of exercise on blood sugar last about 48-72 hours, so it is important for you to be physically active almost every day.

"Brittle" diabetes, also known as unstable diabetes or labile diabetes, is a term that was traditionally used to describe the dramatic and recurrent swings in glucose levels, often occurring for no apparent reason in insulin-dependent diabetes. This term, however, has no biologic basis and should not be used.[39] Still, type 1 diabetes can be accompanied by irregular and unpredictable high blood sugar levels, frequently with ketosis, and sometimes with serious low blood sugar levels. Other complications include an impaired counterregulatory response to low blood sugar, infection, gastroparesis (which leads to erratic absorption of dietary carbohydrates), and endocrinopathies (e.g., Addison's disease).[39] These phenomena are believed to occur no more frequently than in 1% to 2% of persons with type 1 diabetes.[40]
Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.
Can you “exercise your way” out of this problem? Sometimes you can; however, the key is exercising properly. For younger patients, it is best to exercise briefly and intensely. Within the first 20 minutes of intense exercise, your body burns its sugar stores, which are hanging out in liver and muscle again. After that, you start burning fat. Although this sounds good; and to some extent it is, if you spend hours running or exercising excessively, you train your body to burn fat efficiently, which subsequently lead to also training your body to store fat efficiently.
For Candace Clark, bariatric surgery meant the difference between struggling with weight issues, including medical problems triggered by obesity, and enjoying renewed health and energy. "I felt like I was slowly dying," says Candace Clark, a 54-year-old Barron, Wisconsin, resident who had dealt with weight issues for years. "I was tired of feeling the way [...]

The ADA recommends using patient age as one consideration in the establishment of glycemic goals, with different targets for preprandial, bedtime/overnight, and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels in patients aged 0-6, 6-12, and 13-19 years. [4] Benefits of tight glycemic control include not only continued reductions in the rates of microvascular complications but also significant differences in cardiovascular events and overall mortality.

Jump up ^ Piwernetz K, Home PD, Snorgaard O, Antsiferov M, Staehr-Johansen K, Krans M (May 1993). "Monitoring the targets of the St Vincent Declaration and the implementation of quality management in diabetes care: the DIABCARE initiative. The DIABCARE Monitoring Group of the St Vincent Declaration Steering Committee". Diabetic Medicine. 10 (4): 371–7. doi:10.1111/j.1464-5491.1993.tb00083.x. PMID 8508624.
Environmental factors are important, because even identical twins have only a 30-60% concordance for type 1 diabetes mellitus and because incidence rates vary in genetically similar populations under different living conditions. [25] No single factor has been identified, but infections and diet are considered the 2 most likely environmental candidates.
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)
People usually develop type 2 diabetes after the age of 40 years, although people of South Asian origin are at an increased risk of the condition and may develop diabetes from the age of 25 onwards. The condition is also becoming increasingly common among children and adolescents across all populations. Type 2 diabetes often develops as a result of overweight, obesity and lack of physical activity and diabetes prevalence is on the rise worldwide as these problems become more widespread.
Know Your Numbers: Knowing your ABCs—A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol—are important in reducing your risk for diabetes and keeping your diabetes in good control. If you are someone with diabetes who has elevated blood pressure or cholesterol, you are increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Your physician will give you your A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol targets. Make sure you pay attention to them and understand what they mean and why they are important.
Injections of insulin may either be added to oral medication or used alone.[24] Most people do not initially need insulin.[13] When it is used, a long-acting formulation is typically added at night, with oral medications being continued.[23][24] Doses are then increased to effect (blood sugar levels being well controlled).[24] When nightly insulin is insufficient, twice daily insulin may achieve better control.[23] The long acting insulins glargine and detemir are equally safe and effective,[98] and do not appear much better than neutral protamine Hagedorn (NPH) insulin, but as they are significantly more expensive, they are not cost effective as of 2010.[99] In those who are pregnant insulin is generally the treatment of choice.[23]
Periodontal Disease. Periodontal disease is a commonly observed dental problem for patients with diabetes. It is similar to the periodontal disease encountered among nondiabetic patients. However, as a consequence of the impaired immunity and healing associated with diabetes, it may be more severe and progress more rapidly (see Right). The potential for these changes points to the need for periodic professional evaluation and treatment.
Diabetes experts feel that these blood glucose monitoring devices give patients a significant amount of independence to manage their disease process; and they are a great tool for education as well. It is also important to remember that these devices can be used intermittently with fingerstick measurements. For example, a well-controlled patient with diabetes can rely on fingerstick glucose checks a few times a day and do well. If they become ill, if they decide to embark on a new exercise regimen, if they change their diet and so on, they can use the sensor to supplement their fingerstick regimen, providing more information on how they are responding to new lifestyle changes or stressors. This kind of system takes us one step closer to closing the loop, and to the development of an artificial pancreas that senses insulin requirements based on glucose levels and the body's needs and releases insulin accordingly - the ultimate goal.

In addition to learning about diabetes itself, older people may have to learn how to fit management of diabetes in with their management of other disorders. Learning about how to avoid complications, such as dehydration, skin breakdown, and circulation problems, and to manage factors that can contribute to complications of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, is especially important. Such problems become more common as people age, whether they have diabetes or not.
Different environmental effects on type 1 diabetes mellitus development complicate the influence of race, but racial differences are evident. Whites have the highest reported incidence, whereas Chinese individuals have the lowest. Type 1 diabetes mellitus is 1.5 times more likely to develop in American whites than in American blacks or Hispanics. Current evidence suggests that when immigrants from an area with low incidence move to an area with higher incidence, their rates of type 1 diabetes mellitus tend to increase toward the higher level.

Inhalable insulin has been developed.[125] The original products were withdrawn due to side effects.[125] Afrezza, under development by the pharmaceuticals company MannKind Corporation, was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for general sale in June 2014.[126] An advantage to inhaled insulin is that it may be more convenient and easy to use.[127]

Hemoglobin A1c or HbA1c is a protein on the surface of red blood cells. The HbA1c test is used to monitor blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes over time. Normal HbA1c levels are 6% or less. HbA1c levels can be affected by insulin use, fasting, glucose intake (oral or IV), or a combination of these and other factors. High hemoglobin A1c levels in the blood increases the risk of microvascular complications, for example, diabetic neuropathy, eye, and kidney disease.