Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes develops when there is not enough insulin produced by the pancreas (insulin deficiency) or the when the insulin produced doesn’t work properly (insulin resistance). The cells in the body are therefore only partially unlocked and glucose builds up in the blood as a result.

Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in adults accounting for 85 to 95% of all diabetes cases. Type 2 Diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40, although in people who are at greater risk genetically, it often appears from the age of 25. It’s also becoming increasingly more common in children, teenagers and young people of all ethnicities, largely due to lifestyle factors.

In its early stages, Type 2 Diabetes often has no symptoms. When Type 2 Diabetes symptoms do occur, they may come on gradually and be very subtle.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes may include:

  • Feeling tired

  • Frequent infections, including gum, skin, or bladder infections

  • Increased urination

  • Blurred vision

  • Slow healing of cuts or sores

  • Increased hunger and thirst

  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet

Risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Being overweight – the more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin (insulin resistance).

  • Fat distribution – excess weight carried around the abdomen is a higher risk factor than weight carried on buttocks and thighs.

  • Genetics – there is a higher genetic risk if there is a family history of Type 2 Diabetes or if you are African-Caribbean, Black African, Chinese or South Asian.

  • Lack of exercise – an active lifestyle reduces the incidence of insulin resistance and excess weight.

  • Age – the risk increases the older you get mostly due to an increase in weight and a decrease in physical activity.

  • Lifestyle factors – diet of high fat and high sugar processed food coupled with no exercise and smoking.

  • Impaired glucose intolerance (IGT) – is a category of higher than normal blood glucose but at the same time is lower than the threshold for diagnosing diabetes.

  • Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) – pregnant women who are overweight, who have IGT or who have a family history of diabetes are at an increased risk of developing GDM.

  • High blood pressure

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – especially in later life.

Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Weight reduction – to fight insulin resistance.

  • Healthy balanced diet – to lose excess weight; stabilise the blood glucose levels with low GI food such a grains and pulses, and to decrease cholesterol.

  • Exercise – to fight insulin resistance; to use up blood glucose and to reduce excess weight.

  • Medication – prescribed medication can:

    • reduce the amount of glucose your liver releases into your blood stream

    • make your cells more receptive to insulin

    • make your pancreas produce more insulin

    • slow down the digestion of carbohydrates so that glucose is released more slowly into your blood stream

      NB: Medication alone cannot treat Type 2 Diabetes and a healthy diet, weight loss and exercise are also necessary.

Short Term Type 2 Diabetes Complications:

  • Hypoglycemia (hypo) – blood glucose levels drop too low and the symptoms progress quickly from feeling sweaty, nauseous and shaky to blurred vision and unconsciousness.

  • Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome – blood glucose levels go dangerously high and dehydration occurs. Coma and death can result if it’s not treated urgently. This is a rare syndrome and is more common in elderly, sick patients.

Long Term Type 2 Diabetes Complications:

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Nerve damage – especially in fingers and toes and the digestive system

  • Retinopathy – damage of the retina in the eyes which can damage your vision

  • Kidney disease – the small blood vessels of the kidneys become blocked and if not treated can lead to kidney failure

  • Feet problems – poor circulation and nerve damage mean that little cuts and sores battle to heal and can lead to foot ulcers.

  • Sexual dysfunction – due to blocked vessels and nerve damage.

  • Miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects

Type 2 Diabetes must be taken seriously but the good news is that by following a healthy diet, regular exercise, weight loss, monitoring of your blood glucose levels and by using prescribed medication, it can be managed. The long term effects of poor Type 2 Diabetes management are severe and irreversible and worst of all, the symptoms are often not obvious until it’s too late.

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