Getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can come as a real shock—it’s scary to hear that you have a lifelong health problem to deal with. While it can be overwhelming at first, don’t worry. Type 2 diabetes is a manageable condition. Managing your diet and exercise can help you control your diabetes and increase your overall health.
Out-of-control blood sugar levels can cause severe complications inside your body. With type 2 diabetes, your body is not able to make enough insulin or use insulin properly. Without enough working insulin, sugar can build up in the blood, causing immediate symptoms such as excessive thirst, excessive urination, urinating frequently at night, and being unable to heal sores. Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to long term complications.
For example, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. High blood sugar levels can also damage the nerves of the body, and can affect the eyes and kidneys. With diabetes being the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, this disease is nothing to ignore.
How Doctors Diagnose Type 2 Diabetes
There are a few tests that your doctor can use to diagnose type 2 diabetes.
The A1C test tells your doctor what your average blood sugar level has been for the past two to three months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying protein in your blood. Higher blood sugar levels cause more sugar to attach to hemoglobin. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two different tests indicates that you have diabetes. A result between 5.7-6.4 percent indicates prediabetes, and normal levels are those below 5.7 percent.
Random (Non-Fasting) Blood Glucose Test
The A1C test is the most common, but if you are pregnant or have a complication such as anemia, your doctor may opt to use a different test. In a random blood sugar test, a blood sample is taken at a random time. Your blood sugar values are expressed in millimoles per liter (mmol/L) or milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). No matter when you last ate, a random blood sugar test that indicates a level of 200 mg/dL or above suggests that you have diabetes, especially if you already have some symptoms of diabetes. A blood sugar level between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes; the normal nonfasting blood sugar level is one that is less than 140 mg/dL.
Fasting Glucose Test
Your doctor may also opt for a fasting blood sugar test. In this case, a sample of your blood will be taken after you have fasted overnight. A normal fasting blood sugar level is less than 5.6 mmol/L (100 mg/dL). A fasting blood sugar level from 5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L (100 to 125 mg/dL) indicates prediabetes. If your test shows a level of 7 mmol/L (126 mg/dL) or above on two different tests, you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
The oral glucose tolerance test also requires you to fast overnight and take a fasting blood sugar test. The doctor will then have you drink a sugary liquid, and then he or she will test your blood sugar levels periodically over the course of several hours. A normal blood sugar level is less than 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dL) two hours after drinking the liquid. A reading greater than 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dLindicates that you have type 2 diabetes. A reading between 7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L (140 and 199 mg/dL) indicates that you have prediabetes.
Getting a Second Opinion
By all means, get a second opinion if you have any concerns or doubts about your diagnosis. Confirming the above tests on a different day is helpful to confirm your diagnosis. Remember that you don’t have to share the first doctor’s name with your new doctor. And your health is exactly that—your health. Don’t feel intimidated; you have every right to a second opinion.
The Next Steps
Finally, your diabetes diagnosis means that you must follow through on your monitoring and medical appointments. Getting your blood tested and tracking your symptoms are important steps to ensure long-term health. As a person with diabetes, you will have an array of doctors from a podiatrist to an endocrinologist checking in on your health. But remember, you are ultimately responsible for your own health. With diabetes, it’s possible to live a long, fulfilling life—but you have to make that happen with a commitment to getting better.