Ana Maria Kausel, MD, is a double board-certified endocrinologist affiliated with Mount Sinai St. Luke's/Mount Sinai West in New York City.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition affecting the body's ability to process sugar (glucose) for energy, leading to dangerously high levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia). It's the most common form of diabetes.Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include excessive thirst, frequent urination, and extreme fatigue. As the disease progresses, serious complications can develop, including skin disorders, sexual dysfunction, nerve damage, kidney disease, and vision loss.Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin (a hormone essential for bringing glucose into cells). The condition can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.
In many cases, type 2 diabetes can be managed through lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise, though medication may also be necessary.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance (when cells become less sensitive to insulin), or when the pancreas produces less insulin than necessary for proper glucose balance. While family history and genetics play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, lifestyle factors such as consuming a diet rich in processed foods, low physical activity, and obesity can contribute, too.
If you're able to closely follow a comprehensive treatment plan (typically including both medication and lifestyle changes), type 2 diabetes can be reversible. Reversible isn't the same as curable, but it does mean a reduced risk of future complications. It may be possible for some people to wean off medication and manage their diabetes solely through diet and exercise.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune cells attack the pancreas, stopping insulin production. It usually develops during childhood, but may occur after age 30, too. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body's cells become desensitized to insulin. It typically sets in during adulthood, but may affect children, too.
It seems that if you have a family member who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you're more likely to develop the condition yourself, suggesting a genetic component. However, having a genetic disposition is not a guarantee you'll be diagnosed—your lifestyle plays an important part, too. What you eat, how much you exercise, your weight and age all determine which genes can be turned on or off—a concept called epigenetics.
The hemoglobin A1C test is a blood test used to give a glimpse of your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. It's often used in conjunction with at-home glucose monitoring to provide a picture of your overall blood sugar management. It can also be helpful in diagnosing prediabetes or diabetes.
Glucose is broken down (metabolized) from carbohydrates in the diet and serves as the body's primary source of energy. When it enters the bloodstream, it's called blood glucose, or blood sugar. In people with diabetes, the body has difficulty regulating the balance of glucose in the blood versus the cells.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (along with protein and fat) that the body uses as fuel. Carbs are found in fruit, grains, starchy vegetables, beans, legumes, dairy, and sweets. Carbs impact blood sugar more than other foods, which means people with diabetes may benefit from following a reduced-carb diet.
A group of conditions marked by an inability of insulin to control glucose. There are several types of diabetes mellitus, including type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), and monogenic diabetes.
Neuropathy is nerve damage that results from consistently elevated levels of blood glucose, which may show up as numbness or tingling in the feet and hands, muscle weakness, or difficulty walking.
The fasting blood glucose test measures the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood. It's a simple blood test that requires you to fast for at least 8 hours (usually overnight) before getting your blood drawn. The test can be used to screen for and diagnose prediabetes and diabetes.
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is a condition that occurs when there is too much glucose in the bloodstream. Symptoms may include excessive thirst, increased urination, extreme fatigue, nausea, increased hunger, and blurry vision. Hyperglycemia may set in when insulin function is impaired due to either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but it also may result from very high levels of stress.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a condition that occurs when there isn't enough glucose in the bloodstream. Symptoms may include dizziness, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and headache. Hypoglycemia may be due to diabetes, or it could result from other causes, like delaying or skipping meals, vigorous exercise, certain medications, drinking too much alcohol.
A hormone produced by the pancreas that's responsible for shuttling glucose (blood sugar) into the cell for storage and energy). Insulin acts as a "key" that binds to insulin receptors on the cell surface, "unlocking" the cell membrane so glucose can enter. When insulin production is lower than normal, or if the cells become less sensitive to insulin, over time, this can result in type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition described as impaired glucose tolerance, and is a precursor to diabetes. It essentially means your body is having some difficulty balancing your blood glucose level. Prediabetes may not cause symptoms, but if left unchecked, it may progress to diabetes. It can be diagnosed through a fasting blood glucose test and/or an A1C test.
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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insulin resistance and diabetes. Updated 2019.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Insulin resistance and prediabetes. December 2016.
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The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia).
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