Steps for diagnosing type 2 diabetes

The process of diagnosing type 2 diabetes involves identifying whether an underlying cause exists, what type of diabetes you have, and what complications or other related conditions are present.

Step 1: Do I have diabetes?

Your health professional will draw a conclusion based on your symptoms, risk factors, physical exam, and blood test results.

The results of your blood sugar tests will confirm whether you have diabetes, prediabetes (impaired glucose tolerance), or neither condition. If your blood sugar level is within the normal or near-normal range but you still have symptoms such as fatigue, the health professional may want to test for thyroid problems, anemia, depression, or other conditions. Also, fatigue may be caused by temporary problems, such as lack of sleep or poor eating habits.

Step 2: Is there an underlying cause for my diabetes?

Although in most people with diabetes there is no known underlying cause, the possibility of one should be considered if the disease started after certain changes in your life. If there is an underlying cause for the high blood sugar levels, you have secondary diabetes. For some people with secondary diabetes, the diabetes goes away when the underlying cause is eliminated.

Step 3: Do I have type 2 diabetes?

Treatment for diabetes is based on the type of the disease. There are two main types: type 1 and type 2.

  • If your body is not producing insulin, you have type 1 diabetes.
  • If your body is producing too little insulin to overcome your tissues' insulin resistance, you have type 2 diabetes.

Step 4: Are diabetes complications or other conditions present?

Once the diagnosis of diabetes has been made, your health professional will examine you for signs of diabetes complications involving the eyes, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and nerves. A diabetes complication may have been what led to your diagnosis of diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes often have had the disease for years without knowing it.

People with diabetes often have other conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Your health professional will look for these conditions because their presence may affect your treatment for diabetes.

Last Updated: June 16, 2008

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