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November 6, 2017 | by The Polyclinic

When you picture someone who is at risk for type 2 diabetes, who do you see? Someone who is overweight? Older? Someone with a poor diet? Do you ever picture yourself?

Identify Potential Risk Factors

While it's true that certain people are at higher risk, there is no "typical" person with diabetes. We all have the potential for developing type 2 diabetes.

Several years ago at age 57, actor Tom Hanks announced that he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It caught many by surprise. He appears to be in good health, a normal weight, and active; yet his doctor had identified an issue with his blood sugar levels when Hanks was in his thirties, and he's been monitoring him for two decades. The lesson? Looks can be deceiving; only testing will tell for sure.

Some risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Overweight/sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Certain ethnicities, including African American, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino
  • Low levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol)
  • High levels of triglycerides
  • High blood pressure

Watch for Symptoms

"It's hard to imagine, but 6 million people with diabetes don’t know they have it," explained Polyclinic Endocrinologist Dr. Michael Williams. "That’s because the common symptoms of diabetes and pre-diabetes can be mistaken for other conditions, so people don't discuss them with their doctor."

The only way to know for sure if you have diabetes is through a simple test during a routine visit with your primary care physician explains Dr. Williams. Like any health condition, early diagnosis is the key to reducing the risk of serious complications. Some signs to look for include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased urination and excessive thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Hunger
  • Slow-healing infections, cuts or bruises
  • Skin problems like itchiness from poor circulation
  • Yeast infections (yeast thrives in sugar-rich environments)
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Tingling/numbness

Managing Type 2 Diabetes

Managing type 2 diabetes requires a multi-faceted approach to treatment - lifestyle changes, medications, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels as well as the body’s response to the disease. Often patients can manage diabetes with their primary care physician (PCP); sometimes they also need specialty care. The Polyclinic has primary care doctors, a wide range of specialists, as well as nutritionists and educators—all under one roof at Madison Center— to provide the most comprehensive care possible:

  • Primary care physicians to test you for diabetes, see you regularly to manage your symptoms and coordinate your care, if needed.
  • Endocrinologists to diagnose and treat problems with the endocrine system and insulin levels that can result in diabetes.
  • Dietitians, nurses or other medical professionals certified in diabetes education to help patients better understand and self-manage many aspects of the disease.
  • Lipid Clinic team to help those with hard-to-manage cholesterol.
  • Nephrologists to monitor and treat kidney issues.
  • Podiatrists who frequently help diabetic patients with circulatory and wound healing issues.
  • Ophthalmologists to reduce the risk of vision problems that can result from diabetes.
  • Obstetricians to care for pregnant women with gestational diabetes.
  • Other specialists, such as cardiovascular experts, as needed.

Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms or risk factors, and learn more about The Polyclinic's comprehensive diabetes treatment and education services at