Type 2 diabetes is one of the biggest growing concerns for medical professionals. It’s affecting adults mostly, but there are children being diagnosed with prediabetes or full-blown diabetes because of various reasons. Many of the reasons are linked to the weight and the food choices, especially since most diagnoses happen in the Western World.
But what do you really know about Type 2 diabetes? While it’s viewed as the disease for the overweight, there are plenty of people who aren’t overweight with the condition. How does it start and what are the signs? Then there are questions surrounding treatment and whether it’s a reversible disease.
It’s time to understand as much as possible about this condition. Here’s everything you need to know about Type 2 diabetes.
What Exactly Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Sometimes you will hear the term “diabetes” on its own. There are two types of this chronic medical condition (Type 1 and Type 2) and there are some major differences between the two types. Type 2 diabetes is when the body’s cells don’t respond to the insulin in the body in the way they should. Over time this can lead to not enough insulin being produced, but the start of the disease is all about how the body reacts to the insulin in the body.
When the body is unable to use the insulin in the body, the glucose (blood sugar) levels build up within the blood stream. The insulin is supposed to help reduce this, using the sugar for energy. However, without the insulin, the glucose remains in the blood and causes major health problems. If the Type 2 diabetes remains untreated, the chronic blood sugar levels can lead to some serious health problems.
Around 29 million people have a type of diabetes in the United States alone. More than a third of all adults have prediabetes, which is classed as the warning signs that diabetes is about to occur. Around 15-30% of those adults will develop diabetes within a five-year period. Hispanic, black people, and Native Americans are among the most likely people to develop Type 2 diabetes compared to white adults.
Type 2 diabetes can go undiagnosed at first. It’s possible to manage it with your diet for a long time. It’s only when some of the more serious conditions and symptoms occur that people go to the doctor for a diagnosis. This means a quarter of patients will live with Type 2 diabetes unknowingly.
Deaths are caused by Type 2 diabetes. While not directly, the diabetes will lead to other serious health problems, which will lead to the deaths. These health conditions include heard disease, cardiovascular disease, and kidney failure.
Why Does Type 2 Diabetes Occur?
Insulin occurs naturally in the body by your pancreas. It’s used by the body to get the sugar out of the blood stream, so the body can use it for energy. It’s possible for the body to develop a resistance to insulin, especially if the insulin is released on a regular basis. The body doesn’t react as it used to, forcing the body to release more insulin on a regular basis. Eventually the pancreas can lead to not producing any or enough insulin.
Doctors don’t know the full reasons for Type 2 diabetes, but do know that sugar is linked to the condition. There may be a genetic link to the condition, but there are also environmental links. The research is ongoing to figure out just how the pancreas is affected and why the cells stop reacting as they did.
This is why not everyone who develops Type 2 diabetes will be overweight. However, the majority of people are overweight and eat sugar to an excess.
While mostly adults are affects by Type 2 diabetes, it is also something that can occur in children. In fact, it’s a growing concern for children, especially due to the health problems associated with it. Certain children are found more at risk of developing the condition than others. Some of these risk factors are those that children have no control over!
Children who were more than 9lbs at the time of their birth or whose mother had gestational diabetes are more at risk of developing the condition. Being of certain races will also increase the risk of developing it. There may be a genetic link, which means having a close family member with Type 2 diabetes may increase the chances of developing it in childhood.
Overall Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
There are certain factors that are risks for all patients. The genetic link is there for all. If you have a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed, you will want to keep an eye out for symptoms. It’s possible to develop the condition at any age, but it is more likely to occur after the age of 45. Women with PCOS have an increased risk of eventually developing the condition, due to hormonal issues that can affect the release of insulin in the body.
Some factors you will have control over. One of those is being overweight. Most people who are diagnosed are overweight, and researchers believe that because the fatty tissues can make the cells more resistant to insulin you are more likely to develop the condition. This is especially a problem if the excess fat is around your abdomen rather than around the thighs and hips.
Those who don’t exercise or move around a lot are also more likely to develop the condition. Exercise helps to minimize the fat, but can also help to speed up the need to use the glucose in the body. Your cells are much better at responding to the amounts of insulin in the body.
There are also studies that show those who follow a poor diet are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. This is especially the case for those who consume excess refined sugar. The body breaks down the sugar quickly, meaning that it goes into the blood stream. By eating a healthy diet, it’s possible to reduce the amount of sugar in the blood stream, as the body breaks down all the nutrients slowly and uses the energy throughout the day.
If you have gestational diabetes or have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you’re at a higher risk of developing diabetes later in life. However, you can prevent the condition from occurring. In fact, taking steps to prevent diabetes is much better than trying to manage the condition later in life.
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
While you can’t do anything about race, age and genes, you can take some steps to manage your other risks of developing diabetes. You can also help to manage some of the risks of your children developing it. You won’t necessarily like the steps to take, but they’re worth it for your overall health.
The biggest thing you can do is change your lifestyle and diet. Remember that your weight and sedentary lifestyle are the big reasons for developing the condition. Take steps to change your diet by adding more nutrients and reducing the amount of saturated fats and refined sugars that you eat. You’ll want to add more fruits and vegetables, more lean meats, and proteins. Avoid refined carbs, such as cookies and cakes. You may also want to reduce some of your grain intake, as the simple carbs can lead to higher sugar levels in your blood stream.
Adding more omega-3 fatty acids is a good step to take. Omega-3s will help to support the health of the cells, which can help to prevent them creating a resistance or reacting abnormally to the levels of insulin in the body.
Exercise and weight management are important. You just have to do 30 minutes of exercise a day to help prevent Type 2 diabetes. This could be a walk around the park with your friends, doing a fun exercise class, or taking up a sport that you enjoy. You can even do desk exercises if you struggle to fit exercise around your job.
As for weight management, follow a diet that will help you lose a little weight each week. You just need to lose 1-2lbs per week for a healthy weight loss and you’ll start seeing results. Losing 10% of your weight will help you reduce your risks of developing Type 2 diabetes considerably.
Your doctor will discuss Type 2 diabetes prevention, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes or gestational diabetes in the past. Prevention really is the best option.
Knowing the Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms
Now you know how to prevent it, it’s time to look out for the symptoms. After all, there are risk factors that you can’t do anything about. You may also not realize some of the things you’re doing increase the risk factors.
Many of the symptoms are easily overlooked at first. You may think that they’re due to increased heat, other health problems, or just to allergens! The early symptoms include:
- Constant hunger and thirst
- Frequent urination
- Fatigue and energy dips
- Unexplained weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
The symptoms can start of quite mild at first. Overtime they will become more dangerous and more excessive. The more your blood sugar increases, the more severe your symptoms will become. The later symptoms include:
- Foot pain
- Poor healing
- Frequent yeast infections
- Dark skin patches
It’s important to speak to your doctor immediately if you get any of these symptoms, especially if you get at least two at a time. They suggest that the Type 2 diabetes is uncontrolled and this could lead to some serious conditions.
Getting a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis
When you speak to your doctor about your symptoms, there are tests your doctor will want to run. If you see some of the signs early, you may be diagnosed with prediabetes first. This can mimic the signs of diabetes, but is when you’re in the very early stages. It’s reversible and you can prevent Type 2 diabetes completely.
However, you may be diagnosed with diabetes right away. Your doctor will take blood samples, as this is the best way to determine if there’s a problem.
The first test is known as the hemoglobin A1C test, also referred to as the glycosylated hemoglobin test. The test will measure the glucose levels within the blood form the last 2-3 months. There’s no need to fast like some of the other tests.
A second test is known as the fasting plasma glucose test. As the name of the test suggest, you will need to fast. This means no food or drink for eight hours before the test. It will measure the amount of glucose in the plasma after the fasting period.
The third test is called the oral glucose tolerance test. Your bloods will be drawn to start. You’ll then be given a sugary drink and will have your bloods drawn after two hours. The tests show doctors how your body reacts to the glucose.
All tests are standard and give clear indications as to whether you have diabetes or not. The diagnosis can also be relatively quick, especially with the likes of the oral glucose tolerance test. You will usually go home with a diagnosis and some tips on how to manage the condition. If it is more serious, you’ll also be given medications to help manage the condition.
Treatments for Type 2 Diabetes
It’s possible to manage your Type 2 diabetes through your diet, especially if you’re in the earlier stages of the disease. Your doctor will go through tips on managing your blood sugar levels through diet and exercise and will help you monitor your glucose levels on a daily basis. In some cases, you’ll be referred to an endocrinologist, who specializes in diabetes management and treatment. This will help you get a specific care plan for yourself.
The best way to manage your diabetes is to take a glucose blood test regularly. You can do this from home and it will be a way to make sure you remain within a healthy range. However, you will also need to take steps naturally to manage your condition.
One of the best options is to change your diet. Cut out the refined sugars and stock up on more fiber, protein, and healthy oils. You want foods that have complex carbs rather than simple ones, as they’re not likely to sugar in the blood.
Keep your hunger levels satisfied throughout the day. You may want to switch to five or six small meals on a daily basis, instead of three meals and two snacks. This can help to get rid of the hunger and cravings.
Don’t consume too much, even of healthy foods. You need to practice more mindful eating techniques, so you only eat when you’re actually hungry. Avoid piling the plate with food. Start with smaller portions and add more later if you’re still hungry. Take breaks between bites and make sure you give your good time to digest before getting seconds.
You’ll also want to change your sedentary lifestyle. Add more activity in the day, even if it is just 30 minute walk at the start of the day. The exercise will help you use up the glucose in your body, while also keeping the heart healthy.
There will be symptoms of your blood sugar levels increasing throughout the day. Your doctor will help you understand more about these symptoms, such as dizziness, shaking, and even frequent urination. There is the risk of your blood sugar levels dipping, too. Your doctor will help you understand more about this too, so you can avoid collapsing and other health problems.
Many people with Type 2 diabetes won’t need medications to manage their condition. It can all be done through the diet and exercise. If you do need medication, you can also reduce the amount you rely on it by making changes to your diet. You’ll want to discuss this with your doctor.
However, there are times that you will need medications. This can be if you don’t make the lifestyle changes or if you can’t keep the diabetes under control. The medications will also be needed if you miss the early warning signs and your diagnosis is late in the disease development.
- Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists
- Sodium-glucose cotransportor-2 inhibitors
The medications offer a variety of health benefits. Some will help to improve the way your body responds to the insulin. This is important if your blood sugar levels are high, but your body is still producing enough insulin. There are others that will help you make more insulin, if the pancreas has reacted negatively to the lack of reaction.
Medications aren’t a one size fits all approach. You’ll need to take amounts dependant on the severity of your condition. Some medications can help to slow down the digestion, which reduces the amount of blood sugar in the body, which can be useful if you just struggle with the dietary changes, while others can help your kidneys absorb more sugar and release it through the urine to prevent kidney damage or failure.
In some cases, you’ll need to take a mixture of the medications. Your doctor will make a decision based on the severity of your diabetes and your lifestyle changes you’ve made.
There are more severe cases where you will need insulin therapy. This is when the body can’t make enough insulin to help manage the blood sugars. You’ll usually need to inject the insulin directly into your body, usually multiple times on a daily basis.
What Are the Complications of Type 2 Diabetes
As mentioned, this is a condition that you want to manage as much as possible. If left to get worse, you will develop other health conditions and run the risk of life-threatening illnesses. Without the right level of insulin, the whole body is unable to work effectively. The immune system doesn’t react the way it should, which means you’re more likely to succumb to various fungal and bacterial infections. You can experience more skin problems due to them.
Nerve damage is extremely common in those with unmanaged Type 2 diabetes. Some of the nerve damage will be in the digestive tract, which can lead to stool issues and vomiting. However, the nerve damage can also be in the arms and legs, leading to numbness and a pins and needles effect.
The circulation will also be affected, as the heart is damaged. Your body finds it harder to heal from infections and the extremities can suffer from blood flow problems. In some of the more extreme situations, the limbs need to be removed due to gangrene and blood poisoning.
Retinal and eye damage are also common. The vision deteriorates and you’re at a higher risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma. Some of these conditions cannot be reversed at all.
Of course, there is also a risk of kidney damage and heart damage, as already mentioned. All these conditions can cause problems for a normal lifestyle and also lead to death.
There are also risks for women who develop diabetes during pregnancy or have diabetes before getting pregnant. There are risks to the health of the growing baby, including a higher risk of still birth, low birth-weight babies, or the babies developing diabetes later in life.
Managing Your Diabetes
The best thing you can do is to take steps to avoid Type 2 diabetes becoming an issue. Just because you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes doesn’t mean you have to develop the full condition. After all, 70-85% of people are able to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes within five years of being diagnosed with prediabetes.
Even if you do develop diabetes, you’ll want to manage the condition. Some lifestyle changes will make a world of a difference and can help to prevent a number of health conditions and life-threatening diseases.