While many people with Type 2 diabetes might not immediately notice symptoms of the disease, it can still cause serious complications if left untreated.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
While diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a side effects of some Type 2 diabetes medications such as Invokana, people with diabetes are at increased risk even without taking the medication. Lack of insulin production can lead to DKA. This occurs when the body cannot use glucose for fuel and burns fat instead. The byproducts of breaking down fat for fuel are called ketones. When ketones build up in the body, they become toxic.
This condition is rare in people with Type 2 diabetes, though, and usually affects people with Type 1 diabetes whose bodies do not produce insulin at all.
Risk of Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Cancer
People with diabetes are at increased risk for pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas) and pancreatic cancer.
Acute pancreatitis may happen suddenly and symptoms include pain in the abdomen, nausea, fever and rapid heartbeat. Chronic pancreatitis develops over time and symptoms include oily stools, diarrhea, weight loss and vomiting. One study published in Diabetes Care found that people with Type 2 diabetes were almost twice as likely to have acute pancreatitis as people without Type 2. But researchers found insulin slightly decreased this risk. Pancreatitis can lead to pancreatic cancer.
Diabetes can be a risk factor or a symptom of pancreatic cancer. Typically, this type of cancer is more prevalent in people who have had diabetes for more than five years, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Researchers found that health conditions connected to Type 2 diabetes such as insulin resistance, inflammation and high blood sugar all contribute to development of pancreatic cancer. But people with pancreatic cancer may also develop diabetes as a symptom of the cancer.
Some Type 2 diabetes medications may also increase the risk of pancreatitis and possibly pancreatic cancer, including DPP-4 inhibitors such as Januvia, Janumet and Victoza.
Diabetes also increases mortality. Diabetes was mentioned as a cause of death on 234,051 death certificates in 2010, according to American Diabetes Association statistics. The ADA also says diabetes may be underreported as the cause of death.