Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic health condition that can be managed with lifestyle changes and treatment.
Type 2 diabetes is when your body cannot regulate sugar. It can be a long-term and chronic condition when there is too much sugar in the blood. It can have harmful effects on the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems.
In type 2 diabetes, two things happen. Your pancreas does not make enough insulin which controls the movement of sugar to your cells. Your cells do not respond well to the insulin, and they take in less sugar.
Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset, but it can develop in both adults and children. Type 2 is more common in older people, but the number of cases of type 2 diabetes has increased among younger people due to obesity.
Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, but you can manage it by eating healthy food and exercising. If that does not work, you might need to take medications or use insulin therapy.
Type 2 diabetes can take a long time to develop. People often have type 2 diabetes for years before they know it. When symptoms and signs are present, they may include:
- Unintended weight loss
- Increased hunger
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Dark spots that are usually found on the armpits and neck
- Frequent infections
- Slow-healing sores
- Blurred vision
When to see a doctor
Go see a doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a result of two things:
- The cells in your muscle, fat, and liver can become very resistant to insulin. This is because they don’t interact with insulin the way that healthy cells would. When this happens, your body can’t properly process sugar.
- The pancreas can’t make enough insulin to take care of blood sugar levels.
It is not known exactly why this happens, but being overweight and inactive are key factors.
How insulin works
Insulin is a hormone that comes from the gland situated behind and below the stomach (pancreas). Insulin regulates how sugar is used in the body. It does this by:
- Sugar in the bloodstream causes your pancreas to make insulin.
- Insulin helps your body’s cells to take in sugar from your blood. It travels around the blood and goes into the cells.
- The amount of sugar in your bloodstream drops.
- The pancreas releases less insulin in response to this drop.
Glucose is essential for the body.
Glucose is a sugar. It is an essential source of energy for cells that make up muscles and other tissues. There are several ways for the body to use and regulate glucose:
- Glucose is a type of sugar that comes from food and your liver.
- Glucose is absorbed in the bloodstream and enters cells with the help of insulin.
- When you don’t eat for a while, your body can run out of energy. Your liver can break down glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose levels regular.
- Your liver stores and makes glucose.
With type 2 diabetes, glucose does not enter cells and instead builds up in the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels increase, as a result, your body’s insulin-producing beta cells release more insulin to make sure you get enough of it. Eventually, this pancreatic tissue becomes impaired and can’t produce sufficient amounts on its own anymore.
In the less common type 1 diabetes, beta cells are mistakenly destroyed by the immune system. This leaves people with little to no insulin in their bodies.
Many factors may make you more susceptible to develop type 2 diabetes. These include:
- Being overweight or obese can cause a person to be at risk.
- Fat distribution is a sign of how much risk there is. If your fat is mainly in your stomach, you are more likely to have diabetes. Men with waistlines over 40 inches and women with waists over 35 inches are more likely to get diabetes.
- If you have a parent or sibling with this type of diabetes, your chances of getting type 2 diabetes are higher.
- If you have prediabetes, your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. If left untreated, it can progress to type 2 diabetes.
- Inactivity is bad for you. It would be best if you were active. It helps control your weight, use up glucose as energy, and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Blood lipid levels are related to a person’s risk of having problems. Low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides can increase someone’s risk of developing diabetes.
- As you get older, the risk of diabetes increases, especially after 45 years old.
- When women develop gestational diabetes or have a baby that weighs more than nine pounds, they have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that sometimes causes irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, and obesity. Women with this disorder also have an increased risk of developing diabetes.
- People of certain races and ethnicities, including African Americans, Hispanics, Native American Indians, and Pacific Islanders, are more prone to develop type 2 diabetes.
- The reason why these groups, in particular, have a higher risk for developing the condition is unknown.
- Dark skin patches may be a sign of a condition called insulin resistance. These patches are typically found in people’s armpits and necks, but they can occur elsewhere too.
Diabetes affects many major organs, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys. Factors that make you more likely to get diabetes are risk factors for other serious chronic diseases like blindness or kidney failure. If you manage your diabetes well and control your blood sugar levels, it will lower the risk of these complications or coexisting conditions (comorbidities).
Complications and frequent comorbidities include:
- Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes is related to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and narrowing of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis).
- High blood sugar can damage nerves. When high blood sugar damages nerves, it can lead to tingling, numbness, burning, or pain, which usually starts at the tips of your toes and fingers and then spreads.
- Damage to nerves can cause other problems. For example, damage to nerves in the heart can cause abnormal heart rhythms. Damage to nerves in the digestive system may cause feelings of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Men that suffer nerve damage may develop erectile dysfunction.
- Diabetes affects your kidneys by damaging them and eventually leading to chronic kidney disease. If the damage is too much, dialysis or a transplant may be necessary.
- Diabetes can cause eye problems. Some of these are serious, like cataracts and glaucoma. It may also lead to blindness if diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina.
- Skin problems. Diabetes can make you more susceptible to fungal and bacterial skin infections.
- Left untreated, blisters cuts and can become serious infections. They may heal poorly. Severe damage might require foot, toe, or leg amputation.
- Sleep Apnea is common for those with diabetes. Obesity can lead to both conditions, and it may not be apparent if treating sleep apnea improves blood sugar control.
- Dementia is a disease that affects the brain. People who have type 2 diabetes are more likely to get this disease. Poor blood sugar control can lead to people having trouble with their memory and thinking skills.
- One of the most challenging aspects of diabetes is that it can lead to hearing impairment. More than 50% of people with diabetes have some form of hearing problem.
A healthy lifestyle can prevent type 2 diabetes even if someone has biological relatives who have diabetes or have been diagnosed with prediabetes. Healthy choices may make slow or stop type 2 progression.
Healthy lifestyle choices include:
- Eating healthy foods will help you be healthier. Choose low-fat and high-fiber foods. Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Be active. You should exercise 150 minutes a week. This includes brisk walking, running, biking, or swimming.
- If you have prediabetes, lose a little weight. It can slow the progression to diabetes. Lose 7% to 10% of your bodyweight if you are overweight or more if you are obese.
- Don’t sit still for a long time. Sitting for too long can make it more likely that you will get type 2 diabetes. Try to stand up and take short walks every 30 minutes or so.
For people with prediabetes, metformin (Fortamet, Glumetza) is often prescribed. This drug can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes for obese and unable to control their blood sugar levels by changing lifestyle habits alone.
Type 2 Diabetes Resources
Here are some Type 2 diabetes links to further assist with your diabetes planning.
National Health Service (NHS) – Type 2 diabetes
Read about type 2 diabetes, a condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
WebMD – Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a long-term medical condition in which your body doesn’t use insulin properly, resulting in unusual blood sugar levels. Learn more about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of diabetes.
American Diabetes Association (ADA) – Diabetes Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? We have the resources to help you thrive. Find healthy recipes, fitness plans and diabetes guidance.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Type 2 Diabetes
Find out about type 2 diabetes and how to manage the condition with help from your health care team.
Healthline – Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Treatments, Causes, and Much More
The things you’ve wanted to know about type 2 diabetes are all here. Discover the warning signs. Learn about the tests used to diagnose it. Get the facts on drugs such as metformin and insulin. Also get informed about complications, risk factors, prevention, type 2 in children, and more.
MedlinePlus – Type 2 Diabetes / Adult-Onset Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes, previously referred to as Adult Onset Diabetes, is the more common type. Risk factors include obesity and family history.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Type 2 Diabetes
Learn about the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, what causes the disease, how it’s diagnosed, and steps you can take to help prevent or delay diabetes.
Diabetes Australia – About Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is often a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas.
Everyday Health – What Is Type 2 Diabetes? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
Type 2 diabetes is a form of diabetes mellitus caused by insulin resistance that leads to high blood sugar. In this detailed overview, learn how to spot diabetes signs, build a diabetic diet, manage insulin and medication, and help prevent complications.
Medical News Today – Type 2 diabetes: Symptoms, early signs, and complications
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. An early diagnosis means a person can start treatment at once, improving their chances of preventing the complications that might occur. Learn more about the early signs of diabetes, how to spot them, and when to seek a blood test.
Medical News Today – 9 early warning signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes
Being able to recognize the early signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes is vital. Getting treatment and making appropriate lifestyle changes as soon as possible can reduce the risk of developing other serious health conditions. Learn more here.
On Health – Type 2 Diabetes: Signs, Symptoms, Treatments
Learn about diabetes warning signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Find out why thirst, headaches, and infections could be signs of diabetes. Discover the treatment options for people with type 2 diabetes, including medicines and lifestyle improvements.
Harvard Health – Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
What Is It? Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease. It is characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is also called type 2 diabetes mellitus and adult-onset diabetes. That’s because it used to start almost always in middle- and late-adulthood. However, more and more children and teens…