While November is American Diabetes Month, health experts advise one of the most important facts to know about type 2 diabetes — a disease of high blood sugar — is this: You could have it and not know it.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly and can be subtle. And many people with the disease have no symptoms. The earlier type 2 diabetes is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of avoiding serious health problems.
What is it and who is at risk?—
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It usually starts when the body has trouble using insulin, a hormone that helps glucose (also called blood sugar) enter the body’s cells. When glucose can’t move into cells, it builds up in the bloodstream instead.
“Over time, a high glucose level in the blood can damage the body, increasing the chances for complications such as heart, eye and kidney disease, and nerve damage,” said Kathryn Bush, a diabetes educator with Aspirus Wausau Hospital. “Depending on your age, weight and other factors, you may be more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”
People who are at a higher risk include those who:
- Are 45 years or older
- Are overweight or obese
- Are sedentary
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- Have a history of gestational diabetes or of giving birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
What are the symptoms?
Some signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
- Urinating frequently
- Feeling very thirsty, tired or hungry (even though you’re eating)
- Having blurred vision
- Having slow-healing cuts or bruises
- Having numbness, pain or tingling in your feet or hands
If you have symptoms like these, tell your health care provider. He or she will most likely check your blood to see if you have diabetes.
Take it seriously
If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Bush said it’s important to follow the advice of your provider to keep the disease under control, which can help lower your risk of complications.
“You can do that by eating well, exercising regularly and taking medications, if needed,” Bush said.
Kathryn Bush is a diabetes educator with Aspirus Wausau Hospital.