Diabetes is an insidious disease

In the less-common type 1 diabetes, the body cannot make insulin. Currently, no one knows how to prevent this type.

Approximately 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2, in which the body doesn’t use insulin properly. There are things you can do to lower your risk of this type, and you should also know what to look for.

Type 2 diabetes can sneak up on you. There are often no obvious symptoms that you are prediabetic, or on the verge of becoming diabetic, besides a higher-than-normal blood glucose level.

In fact, some people who have type 2 diabetes have symptoms that develop so slowly they don’t notice them. Sometimes people who are prediabetic experience symptoms of type 2 diabetes, such as:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts or bruises that heal slowly
  • More frequent infections
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands or feet

Even if you don’t have symptoms, it’s important to monitor your health, as type 2 diabetes can be a life-changing disease.

Type 2 diabetes can make people more susceptible to skin infections, such as sties, boils and infections around your nails and hair follicles. It can make people vulnerable to yeast-like skin infections and itching. It can cause nerve damage and foot problems, as diabetes makes the blood vessels in your feet and legs narrow and hard, which makes it hard for blood to circulate.

People who have diabetes are more likely to also have high blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems or stroke. Type 2 diabetes can damage your kidneys to the point where they shut down.

So how do people avoid type 2 diabetes?

Staying on top of your health with your primary care physician is a good place to start. Regular physicals, including bloodwork, will bring any symptoms to light early when they’re easiest to treat. Tell your doctor if you experience any concerning symptoms.

It’s important to note that not everyone who has type 2 diabetes is overweight and that there is a genetic component to the disease. But carrying extra pounds (and a lack of exercise) makes people more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. An active lifestyle that includes healthy eating can make you less likely to develop the disease even if it runs in your family.

It’s also important to realize that being prediabetic doesn’t mean diabetes is inevitable. There are things you can do to avoid that diagnosis.

If you are prediabetic, losing weight, eating healthy and regular exercise are three primary ways to reduce your diabetes risk.

Jaime Martinez, MD, is a family medicine physician with Endeavor Health Medical Group. View his profile and schedule an appointment online.