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Type 2 Diabetes in Adults: New Diagnosis


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
  • Physical inactivity
  • Older age
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • A history of heart disease, gestational diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome
  • A family member with diabetes
  • Being African American, Latino, Native American, 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
  • Frequent urination
  • 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 45. You may need any of the following:

  • An A1c test shows the average amount of sugar in your blood over the past 2 to 3 months. Your 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. Complications may include heart or kidney disease. Treatment includes eating healthy foods and being active. 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.

What is diabetes education?

Diabetes education will start right away. 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 sugar and starchy foods (carbohydrates). Do not 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 when eating. The plate method will help with portion control. With the plate method, ½ of your plate contains vegetables. The other half is divided so that ¼ contains protein or meat, and ¼ contains starches, such as potatoes.
    Plate Method
  • 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. Your care team provider will tell you what a healthy weight will be for you. He or she will help you make a plan to get to that weight and stay there. Maintain a healthy weight to help delay or prevent complications of diabetes.
  • How to check your blood sugar level: You will learn what your blood sugar level should be. You will be given information on when to check your blood sugar level. 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.
  • If you need insulin: You and your family members will be taught how to draw up and give insulin. You will learn how much insulin you need and what time to inject insulin. You will be taught when to not give insulin. Your education team will also teach you how to dispose of needles and syringes.

What else can I do to manage type 2 diabetes?

  • 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.
  • 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. Women 21 years or older and men 65 years or older should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men aged 21 to 64 years should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
  • Check your blood pressure as directed. You may have high blood pressure when you have type 2 diabetes. Talk to your care team provider about your blood pressure goals. Together you can create a plan to lower your blood pressure if needed and keep it in a healthy range. The plan may include lifestyle changes or medicines. A normal blood pressure 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 have a higher risk for serious illness if you get the flu, pneumonia, or hepatitis. Ask your care team provider if you should get a flu, pneumonia, or hepatitis B vaccine, and when to get the vaccine.

What are the risks of type 2 diabetes?

Uncontrolled diabetes can damage your nerves, veins, and arteries. High blood sugar levels may damage other body tissue 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. You may need weight loss surgery to help improve or slow the effects of complications.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • 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 call my doctor or care team?

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2020 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

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