What is Adult-Onset Diabetes?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Type 2 diabetes is the term that is now more commonly used to describe the disease formerly known as adult-onset diabetes. This chronic disease is also sometimes called non-insulin dependent diabetes. While there is no cure for adult-onset diabetes, it can be prevented or managed through careful lifestyle choices and medications.

Blood glucose levels should be checked before and after eating.
Blood glucose levels should be checked before and after eating.

Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to regulate blood sugar levels. When a person eats, the pancreas releases insulin to cope with rising blood sugar levels. As soon as the blood sugar levels drop, the pancreas decreases its insulin secretion. Type 2 diabetes means that a person is unable to produce adequate amounts of insulin. It could also mean that a person’s body becomes more resistant to the effects of insulin.

Doctors may put patients with diabetes on a healthy meal plan.
Doctors may put patients with diabetes on a healthy meal plan.

The exact cause of adult-onset diabetes is unknown. Two major factors appear to contribute the development of the disease. A lack of adequate exercise and excess weight, especially abdominal fat, can make a person more likely to develop the condition.

A blood test can reveal adult-onset diabetes.
A blood test can reveal adult-onset diabetes.

Other factors that may predispose a person to develop diabetes include age, because type 2 diabetes is more common in adults over 45. A family history of adult-onset diabetes may also be a factor. Another risk is prediabetes, which means that a person’s blood sugar is abnormally high, yet not quite high enough to indicate actual diabetes. Prediabetes may progress to adult-onset diabetes, particularly when it is not treated.

Physicians recommend regular diabetes screenings for people over the age of 45.
Physicians recommend regular diabetes screenings for people over the age of 45.

A person may have diabetes for years without knowing it, as symptoms can develop slowly. Some of the typical symptoms of type 2 diabetes include fatigue, weight loss, and blurred vision. A person may also notice that they are hungrier and thirstier than usual. Other possible symptoms are frequent urination, patches of darker skin, and frequent infections.

Adult-onset diabetes is also referred to as type 2 diabetes.
Adult-onset diabetes is also referred to as type 2 diabetes.

To diagnose adult-onset diabetes, a doctor can run a blood sugar test on the patient. A fasting blood sugar test requires the patient to fast overnight, following which the doctor will take a blood sample and test it. Blood sugar levels of less than 100 mg/dl are normal values. If the fasting blood sugar level is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, this indicates prediabetes. A patient can be diagnosed with diabetes if the blood sugar level is 126 mg/dl or higher on two separate tests.

Diabetes patients should work with doctors and dietitians to develop a healthy meal plan and exercise program. Some patients may be able to control their disease through these healthy lifestyle changes, and by losing excess weight. Other patients may need medications.

Blood sugar levels should be carefully monitored before and after eating, as well as before beginning physical activity. If patients are unable to adequately control blood sugar levels, they may experience complications. Diabetic complications may include nerve damage, which can lead to incontinence, as well as kidney damage. Patients may also experience eye damage, hearing impairment, and osteoporosis, or loss of bone mass. By carefully managing their disease with the proper treatment, patients may avoid these complications.

If the pancreas fails to properly produce insulin, blood glucose levels can rise.
If the pancreas fails to properly produce insulin, blood glucose levels can rise.

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Discussion Comments

fBoyle

@fify-- The major symptom I had was excessive thirst. My mouth was always dry and sticky. I constantly drank water and naturally, went to the bathroom frequently. I was also tired a lot and when I ate something very sweet like cake, it made me nauseated and sick.

Actually, one day, two different people had birthdays at work. So I ended up eating cake twice. A few hours later, I became so ill. I was nauseated and thirsty. I started vomiting. I walked and walked for hours and drank liters of water. That's when I knew there was something seriously wrong. I stopped eating sweets after that and made an appointment with my doctor. I was diagnosed at that time.

fify

@fBoyle-- What symptoms did you have before you were diagnosed?

I think I agree with you about stress aggravating the condition. My uncle has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes recently. He lost his son and his health deteriorated after that.

fBoyle

I guess I'm an exception when it comes to adult-onset diabetes because I developed the condition when I was 25. I probably had it for longer because I had symptoms for one year before that.

I was actually not obese when I developed the condition. I still am not obese although I am a little overweight. Doctors are always surprised about how young I am. They always tell me that this type of diabetes occurs after age 40-45.

There are people in my family who have the condition. My mother has it and so does my cousin. My mom developed it when she was 50 years old. My cousin developed it when she was 35. So she was fairly young as well but I'm the youngest one to have it. I think that for me, adult-onset diabetes is genetic. I think I would have gotten it regardless. I had a very stressful few years before my diagnosis so I think that stress caused my diabetes to develop early.

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