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Are there any risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and am I at risk?

In type 2 diabetes, risk factors are rather well-known. The strongest ones are excess body fat, and overweight and obesity. A higher waist circumference and body mass index have been identified as risk factors too, while dietary habits are also involved (high intake of saturated fats, sweetened beverages, lack of fiber, bad dietary habits during childhood…).

Smoking is also an important risk factor, even 10 years after smoking cessation, but a lot of other criteria can play a role: ethnicity, a family history of diabetes, previous gestational diabetes in women, or older age for men and women alike…1

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease

A close link exists between diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the most prevalent cause of morbidity and mortality in diabetic patients. Cardiovascular (CV) risk factors such as obesity, hypertension and dyslipidemia are common in patients with diabetes, placing them at increased risk for cardiac events. Therefore, targeting CV risk factors in patients with diabetes is critical to minimize the long-term CV complications of the disease.2

Are there any complications to diabetes?

Yes, and they are quite serious. When diabetes is poorly managed, health-threatening complications can develop. Acute complications such as a coma can occur when blood glucose gets abnormally high, or seizures or loss of consciousness when it gets abnormally low (after too high a dose of anti-diabetic medication, for instance).

Meanwhile, over time diabetes can harm the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. It can also increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. The combination of a reduced blood flow and nerve damage can result in foot ulcers and infection, finally leading to amputation. In the eye, damage to the retina can cause blindness. It is also one of the leading causes of kidney failure.1

Heart attack
Kidney failure
Human body

I have heard that there are a variety of different symptoms of diabetes. Is this true?

Symptoms include

Excessive urination both in terms of quantity and frequency, a condition known as polyuria
Excessive and constant thirst, known as polydipsia
Constant hunger (or polyphagia)
Weight loss
Weight loss
Blurry vision
Blurry vision

Patients might also have numbness or tingling hands or feet, have dry skin, sores that heal slowly, and they might become prone to infections.1,3,4

Between type 2 and type 1 diabetes, symptoms may be similar, but they are often more subdued, or even absent, in type 2 patients. As a consequence, type 2 diabetes may go unnoticed for years, with its diagnosis occurring once complications have arisen.1,3

Diabetes is a chronic disease, but can it lead to serious emergencies?

Yes, it can lead to serious and life-threatening medical emergencies, which can occur if the blood sugar is too high or too low. Diabetic emergencies are best treated in a hospital as quickly as possible.3