Type 2 Diabetes: A Beginner’s Guide for Women

For those who are concerned about Type 2 Diabetes navigating the complexity of the health system can be tricky.  This is a quick guide for taking your first steps to assessing your risk and engaging your doctor.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is a condition where an individual has elevated blood sugar for an extended period of time.  Elevated blood sugar is very damaging for the body and can lead to loss of feeling in the extremities, heart health problems, vision problems, stroke and many serious health issues if untreated.

The severity of the disease is determined by the magnitude of high blood sugar (how high is it?) and duration (how long has it been high?).

Symptoms

One of the problems with Type 2 diabetes is that in the early stages of the disease some people may have no symptoms.  With elevated blood sugar you can be asymptomatic for years.  These crucial years are the time to get treatment, but many patients are undiagnosed and their health deteriorates without their knowledge.

Some people do get symptoms, including: thirst, tingling in the extremities, fatigue, light headedness and hunger.  For women specifically the following can be symptoms of type 2 diabetes:

  1. A yeast infection that is persistent 
  2. Irregular periods
  3. Difficulty getting pregnant or infertility

Diagnosis

Screening for diabetes has never been more straightforward.  If you want to just check your status take a hemoglobin A1C test.  This test is awesome, and is a great innovation in diagnostics.  A1c is a measure of elevated blood sugar over a 120 day period.  It does not require fasting, and only requires a small amount of blood (a few drops) to diagnose effectively.  You do not need to fast (not eat for 12 hours) in order to get an accurate reading for A1c.

You can test quickly and effectively at home using a kit.

The A1C test is what’s called a screening test.  A result of 5.7% or below indicates low risk of diabetes.  If your previous test was low risk, it’s recommended that you test once per year just to make sure that you remain in the low risk zone.  5.7% to 6.5% is an elevated risk of diabetes.  If you test in this zone you should consult your doctor.  You should also adjust your diet and exercise and retest every quarter and work to get your blood sugar in check.  An elevated risk requires a doctor visit immediately, your doctor may do more in-depth tests like testing fasting blood sugar, glucose tolerance or more.  These tests will probably involve fasting. A result of 6.5% and above is high risk, and an immediate doctor’s visit is recommended.

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Treatment

Treatment should be done under a doctor’s supervision.  Depending on the the progression of the disease, a physician may require changes to lifestyle such as diet changes or a new exercise regime.  In more severe cases a doctor may prescribe a medication to help reduce blood sugar, like Metformin as well as changes to diet and exercise.

Early detection makes a huge difference for diabetes, so make sure to get screened.