Insulin is a hormone that the pancreas produces. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body’s cells do not correctly respond to insulin. Your pancreas then produces additional insulin as a response.

This causes your blood sugar to rise, which can cause diabetes. If not managed well, high levels of blood sugar can cause serious health problems including:

  • kidney disease
  • heart disease
  • vision loss

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to develop in people over age 45, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), but in recent years, more young adults, teens, and children have been diagnosed with the condition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 37 million people in the United States have diabetes. Between 90 and 95 percent of those individuals have type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications if it’s not regularly monitored and treated. Lifestyle changes can make a big difference in helping manage your blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms develop slowly, sometimes over several years. That’s why it’s important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of diabetes and to have your doctor regularly order blood sugar testing.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA):

  • having to get up several times during the night to pee (urinate)
  • being constantly thirsty
  • always feeling hungry
  • your vision is blurry
  • you feel numbness or a tingling sensation in your hands or feet
  • always feeling exhausted or overly tired
  • have unusually dry skin
  • any cuts, scrapes, or sores on the skin take a long time to heal

Skin conditions

Diabetes that’s not managed well can cause an increased risk of bacterial and fungal skin infections.

Diabetes-related complications can cause one or more of the following skin symptoms:

  • pain
  • itchiness
  • rashes, blisters, or boils
  • styes on your eyelids
  • inflamed hair follicles

To lower your risk of skin conditions, follow your recommended diabetes treatment plan and practice good skin care. A good skin care routine includes:

  • keeping your skin clean and moisturized
  • routinely checking your skin for injuries

If you develop symptoms of a skin condition, make an appointment with your doctor. Conditions such as rashes can be signs of other health conditions, as well as type 2 diabetes.

Vision loss

Diabetes that’s not properly managed can increase your chances of developing several eye conditions, according to the CDC, including:

  • glaucoma, which happens when pressure builds up in your eye
  • cataracts, which occur when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy
  • retinopathy, which develops when blood vessels in the back of your eye are damaged

Over time, these conditions can cause vision loss. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment can help you maintain your eyesight.

In addition to following your recommended diabetes treatment plan, make sure to schedule regular eye exams. If you notice changes in your vision, make an appointment with your eye doctor.

Nerve damage

According to the ADA, about half of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage, which is known as diabetic neuropathy.

Several types of neuropathy can develop due to diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy can affect your feet and legs, as well as your hands and arms.

Potential symptoms include:

  • tingling
  • burning, stabbing, or shooting pain
  • increased or decreased sensitivity to touch or temperature
  • weakness
  • loss of coordination

Autonomic neuropathy can affect your digestive system, bladder, genitals, and other organs. Potential symptoms include:

  • bloating
  • indigestion
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • loss of control of bladder or bowels
  • frequent urinary tract infections
  • erectile dysfunction
  • vaginal dryness
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • increased or reduced sweating

Other types of neuropathy can affect your:

  • joints
  • face
  • eyes
  • torso

To lower your risk of neuropathy, try to keep your blood glucose levels well managed.

If you develop symptoms of neuropathy, make an appointment with your doctor. They might order tests to check your nerve function. They should also conduct regular foot exams to check for signs of neuropathy.

Kidney disease

High blood glucose levels that are not managed can increase the strain on your kidneys. Over time, this can lead to kidney disease. Early stage kidney disease usually causes no symptoms. However, late stage kidney disease can cause:

  • fluid retention in the body’s tissues (such as edema)
  • loss of sleep
  • loss of appetite
  • upset stomach
  • weakness
  • trouble concentrating

Certain medications can help slow the progression of kidney disease.

To help decrease your risk of kidney disease, it’s important to manage your blood glucose and blood pressure levels to the best of your ability.

You should also visit your doctor for regular checkups. Your doctor can check your urine and blood for signs of kidney damage.

Heart disease and stroke

In general, type 2 diabetes increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. However, the risk may be even higher if your condition is not properly managed. That’s because high blood glucose can damage your cardiovascular system.

According to the CDC, people with diabetes are twice as likely to die from heart disease than people who don’t have diabetes. They’re also one and a half times more likely to experience a stroke, according to the ADA.

The warning signs of stroke include:

  • numbness or weakness on one side of your body
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • difficulty talking
  • vision changes
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • headache

The warning signs for a heart attack include:

  • chest pressure or chest discomfort
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • nausea

If you or someone you love develops warning signs of a stroke or heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

To lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, it’s important to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in check.

It’s also important to:

  • eat a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet
  • get regular physical activity
  • avoid or quit smoking as soon as you can if you smoke
  • take medications as prescribed by your doctor

These tips can help you manage type 2 diabetes:

  • regularly monitor your blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels
  • consider stopping smoking if you smoke
  • focus on nutrient-dense foods and limit foods high in saturated fat and sugar
  • work toward reaching a moderate weight if your doctor has recommended it
  • participate in daily physical activity
  • be sure to take your prescribed medications
  • work with your doctor to create a health plan to manage your diabetes
  • seek diabetes education to learn more about managing your type 2 diabetes care, as Medicare and most health insurance plans cover accredited diabetes education programs

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be hard to spot, so it’s important to know your risk factors.

You may have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are living with obesity
  • are age 45 or older
  • have been diagnosed with prediabetes
  • have a sibling or parent with type 2 diabetes
  • do not exercise or are not physically active at least 3 times a week
  • have had gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy)
  • have given birth to an infant weighing over 9 pounds

Diabetes that’s not well managed can cause serious health complications. These complications can potentially lower your quality of life.

However, you can take steps to manage diabetes and lessen your risk of complications.

A personal treatment plan may include lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a moderate weight or becoming more physically active.

Your doctor can provide advice about how to make these changes or provide a referral to other healthcare professionals, such as a dietician, to offer additional guidance.

If you develop signs or symptoms of type 2 diabetes complications, speak with your doctor. They might:

  • order tests
  • prescribe medications
  • recommend treatments to help manage your symptoms

They might also recommend changes to your overall diabetes treatment plan.