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Type 2 Diabetes in Adults: New Diagnosis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 4, 2023.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that affects how your body uses glucose (sugar). Normally, when the blood sugar level increases, the pancreas makes more insulin. Insulin helps move sugar out of the blood so it can be used for energy. Type 2 diabetes develops because either the body cannot make enough insulin, or it cannot use the insulin correctly. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled to prevent damage to your heart, blood vessels, and other organs.


What increases my risk for type 2 diabetes?

  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Older age
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • A history of heart disease, gestational diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being African American, Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander

What are the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

You may have high blood sugar levels for a long time before symptoms appear. You may have any of the following:

  • Numbness in your fingers or toes
  • Blurred vision
  • Urinating often
  • More hunger or thirst than usual

How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

You may need tests to check for type 2 diabetes starting at age 35. You may be checked sooner if you have 1 or more risk factors. Any of the following may be used to diagnose diabetes or check that it is well controlled:

  • An A1c test shows the average amount of sugar in your blood over the past 2 to 3 months. Your diabetes care team provider will tell you the A1c level that is right for you.
  • A fasting plasma glucose test is when your blood sugar level is tested after you have not eaten for 8 hours.
  • A 2-hour plasma glucose test starts with a blood sugar level check after you have not eaten for 8 hours. You are then given a glucose drink. Your blood sugar level is checked after 2 hours.
  • A random glucose test may be done any time of day, no matter how long ago you ate.

How is type 2 diabetes treated?

The goal of treatment is to prevent or delay complications of diabetes, such as heart or kidney disease. Treatment includes eating healthy foods and being active. Your providers may ask about your home life so they can create a care plan that works best for you. You may also need insulin or other medicine to help control blood sugar levels. You may need medicine to lower your risk for heart disease. An example is medicine to lower or control your cholesterol.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What is diabetes education?

Diabetes education will start right away. Diabetes education may also happen later to refresh your memory. Your diabetes care team may include physicians, nurse practitioners, community health providers, and physician assistants. It may also include nurses, dietitians, exercise specialists, pharmacists, dentists, and podiatrists. Family members, or others who are close to you, may also be part of the team. You and your team will make goals and plans to manage diabetes and other health problems. The plans and goals will be specific to your needs. Members of your diabetes care team will teach you the following:

  • About nutrition: A dietitian will help you make a meal plan to keep your blood sugar level steady. You will learn how food affects your blood sugar levels. You will also learn to keep track of carbohydrates (sugar and starchy foods). You will learn why it is important not to skip meals. Your blood sugar level may drop too low if you have taken diabetes medicine and do not eat. You may be taught to use the plate method for portion control. With the plate method, ½ of your plate contains non-starchy vegetables. The other half is divided so ¼ contains protein, and ¼ contains carbohydrates. Ask your care team for more information about meal planning.
    The Plate Method
  • About physical activity and diabetes: You will learn why physical activity, such as walking, is important. You and your care team provider will make a plan for your activity.
    Black Family Walking for Exercise
    Strength Training for Adults
  • About a healthy body weight: You will learn how a healthy weight can help you control diabetes and prevent heart disease. Ask your team what a healthy weight is for you. Ask your team to help you create a weight-loss plan, if needed. Even a loss of 3% to 7% of your excess body weight can help make a difference in managing diabetes. Your team will help you set manageable weight-loss goals, such as 10 to 15 pounds, or 5% of your extra weight.
  • About your blood sugar level: You will learn what your blood sugar level should be. You will be given information on when and how to check your blood sugar level. You may need to check by testing a drop of blood in a glucose monitor. You may instead be given a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. A sensor is placed in your abdomen or on your arm. You put a transmitter on the sensor to get a reading that shows up on the monitor. You will learn what to do if your level is too high or too low. Write down the times of your checks and your levels. Take them to all follow-up appointments.
    How to check your blood sugar
    Continuous Glucose Monitoring
  • About diabetes medicine: You may need oral diabetes medicine, insulin, or both to help control your blood sugar levels. Your healthcare provider will teach you how and when to take oral diabetes medicine. You will also be taught about side effects oral diabetes medicine can cause. Insulin may be added if oral diabetes medicine becomes less effective over time. Insulin may be injected, or given through a pump or pen. You and your care team will discuss which method is best for you.
    • An insulin pump is an implanted device that gives your insulin 24 hours a day. An insulin pump prevents the need for multiple insulin injections in a day.

    • An insulin pen is a device prefilled with the right amount of insulin.
      Insulin Pen
    • You and your family members will be taught how to draw up and give insulin if this is the best method for you. Your education team will also teach you how to dispose of needles and syringes.
    • You will learn how much insulin you need and when to give it. You will be taught when not to give insulin. You will also be taught what to do if your blood sugar level drops too low. This may happen if you take insulin and do not eat the right amount of carbohydrates.

What else can I do to manage type 2 diabetes?

  • Talk to your care team providers if you have increased stress about your diagnosis. Stress about your diagnosis can keep you from taking care of yourself properly. Your team can help by offering tips about self-care. Your team may suggest you talk to a mental health provider who can listen and offer help with self-care issues. Other types of counseling can help you make nutrition or physical activity changes.
  • Check your feet each day for sores. Wear shoes and socks that fit correctly. Do not trim your toenails. Go to a podiatrist. Ask your care team for more information about foot care.
    Diabetic Foot Care
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage and make diabetes harder to manage. Ask your care team provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your care team provider before you use these products.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices. Sugary drinks increase your blood sugar level and weight. Your healthcare provider may tell you that diet drinks do not help with weight loss.
  • Know the risks if you choose to drink alcohol. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar levels to be low if you use insulin. Alcohol can cause high blood sugar levels and weight gain if you drink too much. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor. Your care team can tell you how many drinks are okay to have in 24 hours and in 1 week.
  • Check your blood pressure as directed. If you have high blood pressure (BP), talk to your care team about your BP goals. Together you can create a plan to lower your BP if needed and keep it in a healthy range. The plan may include lifestyle changes or medicines. A normal BP is 119/79 or lower. A normal blood pressure can help prevent or delay certain complications from diabetes. Examples include retinopathy (eye damage) and kidney damage.
    How to take a Blood Pressure
  • Wear medical alert identification. Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have diabetes. Ask your care team provider where to get these items.
    Medical Alert Jewelry
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. You have a higher risk for serious illness if you get the flu, pneumonia, COVID-19, or hepatitis. Ask your provider if you should get vaccines to prevent these or other diseases, and when to get the vaccines.

What are the risks of type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes that is not controlled can damage your nerves, veins, and arteries. Your risk for dementia increases faster the longer your diabetes is not controlled. High blood sugar levels may damage other body tissues and organs over time. Damage to arteries may increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Nerve damage may also lead to other heart, stomach, and nerve problems. Diabetes can become life-threatening if it is not controlled.

Have someone call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • You may also have any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You vomit for more than 2 hours.
  • You have trouble staying awake or focusing.
  • You are shaking or sweating.
  • You feel weak or more tired than usual.
  • You have blurred or double vision.
  • Your breath has a fruity, sweet smell.

When should I call my doctor or diabetes care team provider?

  • Your arms and legs are swollen.
  • You have an upset stomach and cannot eat the foods on your meal plan.
  • You feel dizzy, have headaches, or are easily irritated.
  • Your skin is red, warm, dry, or swollen.
  • You have a wound that does not heal.
  • You have numbness in your arms or legs.
  • You have trouble coping with your illness, or you feel anxious or depressed.
  • You have trouble following any part of your care plan, such as your meal plan.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.