Hey everyone! Welcome back to SOS and the Dia-What?! Series! Last time, we talked about the very basics of Type 2 Diabetes and what is happening inside your body. Now let's talk about the early stages of diabetes (pre-diabetes), how to recognize Type 2 Diabetes - or T2D - (the symptoms), and how to find out if you or a loved one has it (tests).
The symptoms of T2D may be so mild that they go unnoticed for a long time. In fact, 8 million people who have diabetes don't even know it! How shocking is that?! However, some of the "classic" symptoms of T2D that you should keep an eye out for are:
Being very thirsty
Needing to urinate (pee) a lot
Being more irritable than you used to be
Tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
Feeling tired, fatigued, or worn out, and
Wounds that don't heal or heal very slowly
Aside from T2D, if you or your loved one have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you may be wondering what this means and how it is different from T2D. Prediabetes (or borderline diabetes) is a "stepping stone" on the way to T2D. It is when a person's blood sugar is higher than what is "normal", but is not high enough for a T2D diagnosis.
Prediabetes can also be thought of as the early stages of insulin resistance. For a while, the pancreas will make extra insulin to make up for the fact that the cells aren't responding well. But over time, it can't keep up anymore and that is when we see T2D. Because the body keeps up for a bit, prediabetes usually has no symptoms; but it is almost always there before full-blown T2D. When a person is in the pre-diabetes stage, it is his or her best opportunity to make lifestyle changes to prevent serious problems later on.
While scientists don't know the exact cause of T2D, it has been strongly tied to many risk factors. If you or somebody close to you has any of these, it would be a great idea to get checked (remember: prediabetes has no symptoms!). Risk factors include:
A personal history of high blood sugar or prediabetes
Overconsumption of processed and simple carbohydrates ie: juice, soda, sugary snacks and breakfast cereals, white rice
Being overweight or obese (especially if the weight is around the stomach/middle)
Genetics or a family history of diabetes in a parent, brother, or sister.
Race/ethnicity: African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are at a higher risk.
Being 45 years or older
High blood pressure (140/90 or greater, even if it's being treated by medication)
Abnormal cholesterol levels (even if it's being treated by medication)
So all of this being said, I'm sure you're wondering which tests can tell you if you or a loved one have T2D. Two of the most common tests are A1C and Fasting Blood Sugar Test. The Plasma Glucose Test is not definitive but if out of range should be followed up by the 2 tests above.
is a blood test that is done every 2-3 months. The unique thing about A1C tests are that they are slow to change, so they show blood sugar control over time (for that reason, it won't show immediate changes right after treatment begins, but it is wonderful as a diagnostic tool because it won't react to a rare high blood sugar!). With this test, a value of 5.7-6.4 would indicate prediabetes. Anything over 6.4 would lead to a T2D diagnosis.
Fasting Blood Sugar Test
: This test is also done in the lab as a blood test. For this test, you do not eat anything for 8 hours before a meal. Ideally, you would like your results to be between 70 and 100. Results of 100-125 is considered prediabetes and anything over 125 is considered T2D.
Plasma Glucose Test
: this is probably the one you are most familiar with. It is also known as the fingerstick test. This test can either be done fasting (8+ hours without eating) or 1-2 hours after a meal. If it is done fasting, you want your blood sugar to be less than 110. If taken after a meal, the value should be less than 140. If your numbers come out higher than this, it may indicate that your body is not metabolizing your food the way it should be.
Remember, diabetes prevention and management is a JOINT EFFORT between you and your health care provider. Be proactive (check early, check often), keep track of your numbers, ask questions (no question is stupid), and create a realistic plan for change!