You can’t quench your thirst. You seem to be drinking a lot more than usual. As a consequence, you’re running to the bathroom far more often than you used to.
You’ve put on some extra pounds — mostly around the middle — and have done so quite quickly. Or maybe you seem to be losing weight, even though you seem to be eating more than usual.
You feel tired and sluggish, even when you get a good night’s rest. Your eyesight is getting a little worse for wear. And then there’s that new tingling in your toes.
You may be inclined to chalk up these changes to getting older. You are over 40, after all — and many of these things seem like they’re just the normal result of aging.
But these symptoms can, in fact, be warning signs of diabetes. Specifically, type 2 diabetes (T2D). If that’s the case, you want to be diagnosed as early as possible.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
T2D is a metabolic disease where the body’s cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin is an essential hormone your pancreas makes. It helps your body convert the glucose from the food you eat into energy.
When your cells become resistant to insulin, they can’t access the glucose they need. Instead, those sugars start to build up in the blood. Over time, elevated blood sugar can damage your organs, tissues, and cells.
High blood sugars can lead to a variety of different health issues ranging from blindness to nerve damage.
T2D is both a common and deadly condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that tens of millions of Americans live with this condition.
Historically, medical experts believed that T2D only struck adults over the age of 45. Today, however, younger adults, teens, and even children, are developing this disease. The good news is you have the power to effectively manage T2D — with targeted lifestyle changes.
Never Miss a Beat!
Subscribe to Our HealthBeat Newsletter!
Thank you for subscribing!
You are already subscribed.
Sorry, an error occurred. Please try again later.
Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!
How Is Type 2 Diabetes Different From Type 1 Diabetes?
With both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, your body has a problem with insulin. In T2D, the body grows resistant to insulin. With type 1 diabetes (T1D), however, the pancreas stops making insulin altogether.
T1D is an auto-immune disease. The immune system attacks special cells in the pancreas called beta cells that make insulin. While researchers are not 100% sure of what causes T1D, there is likely a genetic component
If you receive a diagnosis of T1D, you will need to take insulin for the rest of your life. This means you will have to inject yourself with insulin in order to get your blood sugar levels under control.
Early Signs of Diabetes
Some of the most common symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are:
- Blurry Vision.
- Dry Skin.
- Frequent urination, especially during the night.
- Gaining weight, particularly around your belly.
- Increased infections.
- Increased thirst.
- Slow healing wounds or sores.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should mention them to your doctor. They can order a simple blood test to check your blood glucose levels and determine whether you have diabetes. They might also diagnose you with prediabetes.
Differences in symptoms for type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Although the symptoms are the same for T1D and T2D, the speed with which the symptoms come on is different.
While T1D symptoms usually come on quite quickly, they generally develop more gradually in people with type 2 diabetes.
You don’t develop T2D overnight. It often takes years to develop significant insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas will try to make more insulin to help cells get the glucose they need.
But after several years of increased production, your pancreas just can’t keep up anymore. Your blood glucose levels will slowly start rising and you will gradually begin to suffer T2D symptoms.
Nearly 80 million Americans have what doctors refer to as prediabetes. This is a precursor condition to T2D. People with prediabetes have elevated blood glucose levels, but they aren’t quite high enough to qualify for a T2D diagnosis.
You may experience some of the same symptoms as T2D. Those symptoms may include weight gain, increased thirst, and fatigue.
If left unchecked, however, prediabetes will almost certainly lead to T2D. If you receive a prediabetes diagnosis, your doctor will recommend you change your diet and increase your exercise. This can help you get your blood sugar levels back within a normal range.
If you receive a prediabetes diagnosis, your doctor will recommend you cut back on processed foods, alcohol, and sugary beverages. Instead, fill your plate with fruits, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
As noted earlier, T2D is quite common. Incidence rates are rising not just in the U.S. but around the world. You may be at higher risk of developing T2D if you:
- Are overweight
- Lead a sedentary lifestyle
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are of African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander descent
- Have prediabetes
- Received a diagnosis of gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Have given birth to a baby weighing nine pounds or more
You are also more likely to develop T2D if you are older than 35 years of age. But younger people, even children, are increasingly receiving a diagnosis of T2D. If you think you or your child may be at risk, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Preventing or Managing Type 2 Diabetes
Doctors now understand people can manage T2D diabetes by making important changes to their diet and exercise habits. If you have already received a diagnosis of prediabetes, these lifestyle changes can help delay or even prevent the onset of T2D.
To reduce your risk of developing T2D, experts recommend you:
- Eat a balanced diet, full of healthy, whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
- Engage in regular moderate cardiovascular activity (150 minutes per week).
- Lose weight — studies show dropping about 20 pounds, and keeping the weight off for at least a year, can make a big difference.
- Work with your physician to come up with a personalized management plan.
The best time to start preventing T2D is right now. Make sure you understand the warning signs of this common condition so you can start making the right lifestyle changes today.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Link.
Gestational Diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Link.
Achieving Type 2 Diabetes Remission Through Weight Loss. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Link.
Type 2 Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link.
Prevent Diabetes Complications. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link.
What Is Type 1 Diabetes? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link.
Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link.
Prediabetes — Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.