Type 2 Diabetes
Explore Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by high levels of glucose in the bloodstream which leads to hyperglycemia if untreated.
It is strongly linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyle habits such as lack of physical activity, poor diet and smoking.
How common is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes mellitus, accounting for roughly 90% of all cases of diabetes. It affects an estimated 330 million people worldwide, including over 29 million people in the United States.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes develops when natural production of insulin, the hormone used to control levels of blood glucose:
- Becomes insufficient for the body’s needs or
- Its effectiveness is reduced
This results in higher-than-normal blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) during some parts or all of the day.
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Scientists are yet to fully understand how this occurs, but what they do know is that certain factors cause the body to become less sensitive, or resistant, to its own insulin. These factors are thought to be associated with a Western lifestyle, since type 2 diabetes is most common in people who are overweight and physically inactive.
What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes
You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you:
- are overweight or obese
- live an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle – poor diet, lack of exercise, etc
- have a close relative (parent or sibling) with type 2 diabetes
- have high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or high cholesterol
Is age a risk factor?
Unfortunately, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes becomes greater with age. This association is largely due to the fact that insulin production by the pancreas becomes less effective as we get older, while the body also becomes more resistant to insulin.
In recent years, however, cases of type 2 diabetes have become more common amongst teenagers and children, as opposed to middle-aged adults.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
Warning signs of type 2 diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Daytime fatigue
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of cuts or wounds
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
- Regular yeast infections (thrush)
- Genital itching
Some of these symptoms can also be signs of the less common type 1 diabetes, particularly in children and younger adults that are not obese.
Being aware of the signs of type 2 diabetes is vital to catching and treating the disease at an early stage which, in turn, can limit any damage caused and prevent complications from developing.
- See our guide on type 2 diabetes symptoms for more information.
Treatment for type 2 diabetes
Treating type 2 diabetes is based on reducing and maintaining control of blood glucose levels.
For most people, achieving this involves a combination of lifestyle interventions (diet modification, regular exercise, reducing alcohol intake, etc), self-monitoring of blood glucose and oral medication. In some cases, daily injections of insulin are needed.
For people who are overweight or obese, weight loss is a vital part of diabetes management.
Complications of type 2 diabetes
Keeping blood glucose levels under control is essential for preventing the development of other diabetes-related medical conditions, or complications.
Over time, uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can lead to a number of diabetic complications including:
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease (nephropathy)
- Eye disease (retinopathy)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Foot infections
In addition to good blood sugar control, attending all diabetes health checks/screening appointments is also vital for reducing the risk of diabetic complications.
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Last reviewed: February 24, 2015 at 11:53
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