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Diagnosing type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed from an asymptomatic person in the context of a routine health examination or in examination related to another helath probleem.

In type 2 diabetes, your blood sugar normally gradually increases over the years. Indeed, it is typical that reduced blood sugar regulation first leads to pre-diabetes blood sugar levels and then progresses from there to diabetes levels, if the predisposing factors are not tackled.

For the majority of the people with diabetes, hyperglycaemia is diagnosed in a health examination performed by occupational health care or on the basis of age or in blood pressure or metabolic syndrome monitoring. Sometimes, diabetes is diagnosed in connection with a procedure, such as in a pre-surgery examination. Type 2 diabetes can progress insidiously and damage the body's systems before it is detected, if the blood sugar level has been high for years. For example an eye specialist can detect changes in the eyes resulting from diabetes, a slow-healing foot ulcer may be caused by diabetes or a coronary thrombosis or stroke may be the first time diabetes is diagnosed.

For most people, hyperglycaemia only becomes symptomatic once the blood sugar level is above 10 mmol/l. This may result in classic symptoms of diabetes: increased urinary excretion, dehydration, thirst, tiredness, lack of energy and possible weight loss.

Signs of of type 2 diabetes:

  • parents or siblings have type 2 diabetes

  • abdominal obesity

  • metabolic syndrome

  • if you get diabetes after the age of 40

  • previous gestational diabetes

  • related complications already at the time of diagnosis

It is very important to detect an increase in blood sugar that is asymptomatic or nearly asymptomatic early enough to allow initiation of efficient lifestyle management and prevention of diabetes related complications. This is why everyone in the risk group is recommended to test their blood sugar level every 1–3 years and consider a glucose tolerance test. Everyone over the age of 40 should test their blood sugar level at least every five years.

Updated 30.9.2023