Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Tuesday 22 December 2020
Diabetes

Table of Contents


I. What is Type 2 Diabetes?

II. What’s the Difference between the Diabetes Types?

III. Risk Factors

IV. Symptoms

V. Diagnosis

VI. Prevention and Treatment Options


What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your body doesn’t handle glucose efficiently. Your body functions optimally when it can make insulin and use it to transfer glucose to your cells for energy. Glucose is also known as blood sugar and is the simplest form of carbohydrates. Glucose is essential for keeping you alive, so being able to process this substance is vital.

Whenever you eat foods like bread, fruits, or vegetables, your body begins metabolizing the glucose with help from the insulin created by your pancreas. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t make insulin well. Without enough insulin, too much glucose stays in your bloodstream, putting you at risk of heart, kidney, eye, nerve, and gum complications.

It is important to catch type 2 diabetes as early as possible. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may not be obvious and can appear slowly. Blood tests can tell you if there is too much glucose in your blood. Blood sugar levels higher than normal (yet not high enough to be called type 2 diabetes) is called prediabetes. Even if you do not experience symptoms, type 2 diabetes can become life-threatening over time.

The early stages of type 2 diabetes can be manageable with a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and regular blood sugar testing. [1] To prevent type 2 diabetes from becoming severe, drugs like Onglyza (Saxagliptin), Janumet (Sitagliptin), Farxiga (Dapagliflozin), and Metformin can help lower blood sugar levels. Read on to learn more about the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options for type 2 diabetes. [1]

an older man holding up a baby

What’s the Difference between the Diabetes Types?

The main difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is how much insulin your pancreas makes. Type 1 diabetes means you cannot make any insulin. Type 2 diabetes means you do not make enough insulin or that your body does not use insulin effectively. Both types of diabetes are characterized by abnormally high levels of blood sugar, but symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop quickly whereas symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop slowly or never show up at all.

An autoimmune disorder is a condition where your immune system attacks your own body. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where your immune system mistakes your insulin-producing cells for invaders. Your immune system attacks and kills the healthy cells that are responsible for producing insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body has something called insulin resistance, meaning the body is not using insulin effectively. The cause of insulin resistance is still a mystery. Being inactive or overweight may contribute to this condition. [2]

Type 1 diabetes used to be known as juvenile diabetes. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes. In recent times, the lines have blurred and both types of diabetes can occur in several different demographics. The increase in childhood obesity may be linked to this development. [3]

Risk Factors

Your lifestyle can dictate your likelihood of getting type 2 diabetes. For example, being inactive can increase your risk. Exercising more can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes because you are using more glucose as energy; physical activity can also increase your cells’ sensitivity to insulin.

You don’t have to be overweight to develop type 2 diabetes. However, being overweight can increase your risk of developing the disease. Some people store more fat in the abdomen area than in other areas of their body. This type of fat distribution is another risk factor. Men with a waist circumference above 40 inches and women with a waist circumference above 35 inches are more likely to get type 2 diabetes. [3]

As mentioned above, the link between age and type 2 diabetes is not as strong as previously thought. Still, the risk of type 2 diabetes may increase as you get older because people after the age of 45 tend to exercise less, lose more muscle mass, and gain more weight.

(an assortment of healthy vegetables

Family history and underlying conditions also factor in when assessing your risk for type 2 diabetes. You are more likely to get type 2 diabetes if someone in your family already has the disorder. Having blood sugar levels above average may indicate prediabetes. Taking preventive steps is crucial to make sure your prediabetes does not develop into type 2 diabetes.

You can also develop diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Your risk of getting type 2 diabetes increases if your baby weighs more than nine pounds at birth. Irregular menstrual periods may also increase your risk, and areas of darkened skin around your armpits and neck may signal insulin resistance. [3]

Symptoms

Blood tests are the best way to diagnose type 2 diabetes. Symptoms for type 2 diabetes usually begin gradually and may be hard to notice. Some people may live with type 2 diabetes for long periods of time before a proper diagnosis. When they do appear, symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Urinating often
  • Blurry eyesight
  • Drastic weight loss (even without trying to lose weight)
  • Mild to severe fatigue
  • Being constantly hungry or thirsty
  • Having sores that take longer than usual to heal
  • Darkened skin around the armpits and neck area
  • Frequent infections [3] [6]

Diagnosis 

There are three common ways to diagnose type 2 diabetes in a health care setting. Usually, your doctor will run two tests. However, if you show symptoms of high blood sugar after one positive test, a second test is typically not necessary. An A1C test takes an average of your blood sugar over the past two to three months.

A fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) checks your blood sugar levels after eight hours of fasting (not eating). Finally, an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) looks at how your body reacts two hours after you drink a sweet drink. Your doctor will determine the right test for you. [4] 

Prevention and Treatment Options

Eating foods that are lower in fats and higher in fiber can help prevent complications of type 2 diabetes. Whenever possible, opt for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains over-processed foods. Getting lots of exercise is also a key component. Roughly 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise (like biking or swimming) every day can slow or stop the progression of your diabetes. Losing around five to ten percent of your body weight will also reduce your likelihood of getting diabetes.

two people going for a run

Positive changes to your eating and exercise habits can put you into a healthy cycle of increased motivation, heart health, and overall self-confidence. If your job involves sitting in one place for long periods of time, aim to fit in a short walk of one or two minutes every thirty minutes or so. [3]

Medical treatment options are available. Type 2 diabetes is frequently treated with prescription medications like Onglyza (Saxagliptin), Janumet (Sitagliptin), Farxiga (Dapagliflozin), and Metformin. Some oral medications may be used together. However, taking more than one drug at a time can increase side effects. [5] Ask your doctor about the best type 2 diabetes treatment plan for you.

A holistic treatment plan is often more effective than tackling one aspect of your type 2 diabetes. Even if you are taking medication to control your blood sugar levels, healthy lifestyle choices will always be vital for preventing or managing this disease. Combining healthy lifestyle choices with the right treatment can be the most effective management plan.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.