Type 2 Diabetes 101: Final

By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

Now that we have understood why seniors are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, the common risk factors – obesity and metabolic syndromes and the role of insulin, this week, we will focus on the early and late signs and symptoms of high blood sugar.


High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) affects people who have diabetes. Several factors can contribute to hyperglycemia in people with diabetes, including food and physical activity choices, illness, non-diabetes medications, or not taking enough glucose-lowering medication.

It is important to treat hyperglycemia, because if left untreated, hyperglycemia can become severe and lead to serious complications requiring emergency care, such as diabetic coma. In the long term, persistent hypoglycemia, even if not severe can lead to complications affecting your eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

Hyperglycemia doesn’t cause symptoms until glucose values are significantly elevated – above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 11 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Symptoms of hyperglycemia develop slowly over several days or weeks. The longer blood sugar levels stay high, the more serious the symptoms become.

Early signs and symptoms

Recognizing early symptoms of hyperglycemia can help you treat the condition promptly. Watch for:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Later signs and symptoms

If hyperglycemia goes untreated, it can cause toxic acids (ketones) to build up in your blood and urine (ketoacidosis). Signs and symptoms include:

  • Fruity – smelling breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Abdominal pain

Next week we will examine the medical treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: describe why you don’t want to have high blood sugar.

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