Most likely, someone you know has type 2 diabetes. You probably have lots of questions but you might feel that having diabetes is a personal thing, and not want to pry into their business. What is type 2 diabetes? What are the symptoms and how is it diagnosed? Once you have diabetes, can you do anything to control it or make it less severe?

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition where your body does not make the amount insulin it needs to work with the sugar in your blood. In people without type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin, which sends the sugar in your blood off to work in each individual cell in your body.  When diabetes is present, there is not enough insulin, or no insulin at all, and the sugar is not sent to the cells. Instead it just stays in the blood and causes health issues.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are wide and varied. They may seem unconnected to one another. They include bladder infections that may occur more frequently than normal, skin infections or sores that take an unusually long time to heal, frequently being hungry, pain or numbness in the hands and feet, increased thirst and urination, blurred vision and fatigue. For males, erectile dysfunction can be an early symptom.

Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed through a series of tests performed by your doctor. You will need to fast overnight and then have your blood drawn in the morning. A reading with a numerical value higher than 126 on two separate occasions means that diabetes is present. Another blood test measures A1C and when the reading has a numerical value higher than 6.5, diabetes is present. There is an oral test as well, where you are given a sugary drink to consume, and after a period of time, your blood is drawn and your blood sugar level is measured. If your blood sugar is over 200, then diabetes is present in your body.

Once your doctor confirms the presence of diabetes in your body, how can you live the healthiest life possible with it? You will need to work closely with your doctor to monitor your condition. You will probably see your doctor every three months. During your checkups, the doctor will check to see if you are losing sensation in your feet, and will check your eyes for complications associated with diabetes. Your skin will be checked for slow-healing sores, especially on the legs. You will also have your blood pressure monitored. An ideal blood pressure for a person with diabetes is 140/80.

In addition to keeping a close eye on those things, you need to be vigilant with other aspects of your health. You will need to have your cholesterol checked yearly, with specific focus on the triglycerides. You will need to have your A1C retested every 6 months if your diabetes is well-managed; otherwise it needs to be monitored at each of your 3 month checkups. You should see your eye doctor once a year to keep tabs on any vision complications from diabetes. You need to visit your dentist every six month for cleanings and make sure they know you have a diagnosis of diabetes so they can be on the lookout for dental complications.

Finally, every person, not just one with diabetes, benefits from regular exercise and a healthy diet. The power to live the healthiest life possible with diabetes starts with you!