Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can cause serious complications, such as heart disease, blindness, and conditions requiring lower-limb amputations. Unfortunately, it is estimated that nearly a fourth of diabetes cases in the United States are not merely untreated, but unrecognized. Around 7 million people who have diabetes have never been diagnosed; it can take as many as ten years for a proper diagnosis to be made. An additional 79 million people have prediabetic conditions, not all of whom are adequately managing the risk.
That’s why today is Diabetes Alert Day, when people are urged to look for the signs of type 2 diabetes and get themselves tested. While everyone needs to be aware of the risks, testing is particularly important for people with a family history of type 2 diabetes and for African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Regardless of your inherent risk, you put yourself at greater risk by leading an inactive, sedentary lifestyle or by being overweight. In fact, studies have shown that you can delay or prevent diabetes by eating healthy and getting regular exercise to reduce your body weight by just seven percent, such as going from 200 pounds to 185.
Testing for type 2 diabetes starts with a risk assessment—even people who seem to have no risk factors might benefit from a lifestyle screening that may uncover things they can change to prevent diabetes. If it is advisable, there are several types of blood tests that can be used to find signs of diabetes or of the typically asymptomatic high glucose levels that are often precursors to diabetes.
It is particularly important to get tested if you are exhibiting symptoms of diabetes. The symptoms are often subtle and may seem harmless. Get tested if you experience excessive thirst and frequent urination, unexplained weight loss and extreme hunger, fatigue and irritability, or blurred vision. Early detection and treatment are how you can decrease your chances of developing diabetes.