Diabetes is a life-long disease that affects the way your body uses sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat. Most people that have diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
With type 2 diabetes, the body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. When this happens, the pancreas produces more insulin to compensate. Eventually, it is unable to keep up with the demand, and it stops producing insulin, leading to a build up of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia). When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause cells to be starved for energy and eventually lead to complications with your eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
Age, excess weight, family history, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels all increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes (a chronic, slightly elevated blood sugar), gestational diabetes, or polycystic ovarian syndrome also increase your risk.
Some ethnic groups have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than others. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
Type 2 diabetes can develop slowly, and many symptoms may be mild and easy to dismiss at first. Early symptoms can include:
If your blood sugar levels have been high for a long time, you could also experience long-term problems such as heart disease, foot problems, nerve damage, eye disease or kidney disease.
Diabetes often goes undiagnosed until routine blood tests are ordered, normally starting at age 45. Your doctor might start earlier if you have additional risk factors. Diagnosis of diabetes typically requires one or more blood tests.
Managing diabetes requires teamwork between you and your doctor. Some people can control their type 2 diabetes with healthy eating and exercise. Others may need oral medications or insulin to help control blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels will need to be monitored at home, and your doctor will tell you how often you should test and what your target range should be. You’ll also learn to recognize the symptoms of blood sugar that is too high or too low and what to do in each situation.
Good diabetes management can be overwhelming, especially when you're first diagnosed. Take it one day at a time, and remember that you're not alone. The diabetes specialists at Mercy will work closely with you to manage your blood sugar and keep you healthy.