Type 2 Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Have you ever wondered why our bodies need insulin or what happens when it doesn’t work correctly?

Imagine insulin as a key, opening doors to our cells so sugar can enter. In diabetes type 2, there’s a problem with the keys, the locks, or both. Tissues are resistant to insulin, or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or a combination of both factors. 

This guide aims to shed light on this common yet often misunderstood condition, offering insights into its nature, risk factors, symptoms, and management strategies.

What Exactly is Diabetes Type 2?

Type 2 diabetes is a long-term medical condition characterized by the body’s struggle to manage insulin effectively, a vital hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Insulin helps glucose, derived from our food, to be used by our cells for energy. When someone has type 2 diabetes, their body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells become resistant to it, causing sugar to build up in the blood. This can lead to a host of health issues if left unmanaged.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are usually mild in the initial stage, but when the disease progresses, there are several signs and symptoms. They include;

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased urination
  • Required to pass urine at sleep (also known as nocturia) 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness or numbness in hands and feet
  • Acanthosis Nigricans (Black velvety discolouration) in the neck and axilla. 

If the disease is not well controlled, it can progress into the development of complications such as elevated blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, frequent infections, leg wounds (sometimes amputation) 

Recognizing these symptoms early is key to managing the disease effectively.

Diagnosing Diabetes Type 2

When suspecting type 2 diabetes, healthcare professionals rely on blood tests.

The Glycosylated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) test reflects average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months, with levels above 6.5% typically indicating diabetes. Interpretation of HbA1c values is given below,

  • Less than 5.6% – Normal
  • 5.7% to 6.4% – Prediabetes
  • More than 6.5% – Diabetes

Fasting Blood Glucose (FBG) tests are also used, with readings above 126 mg/dl suggesting diabetes. The interpretation of HbA1c values is given below,

  • Less than 100 mg/dl – Normal
  • 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl – Prediabetes
  • More than 126 mg/dl – Diabetes  

An Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) is sometimes administered for further clarification.

Who is at Risk of Diabetes

Certain factors increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, such as being over 45, having a family history, having high body weight, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and having unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

  • Age. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases sharply after age 45, especially in people with high body weight or with a family history of the disease.
  • Family history. If you’ve had type 2 diabetes in a parent or sibling, you’re at higher risk, too. If it runs in the family, you’ll most likely inherit a tendency to develop it unless you change your lifestyle.
  • High body weight is associated with an increased risk—your body mass index (BMI) should be below 25 to avoid this disease. Obesity increases insulin resistance. 
  • Physical inactivity is another big factor.  Being active reduces this risk by lowering blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity. Exercise also helps prevent obesity.
  • Unhealthy habits such as excessive use of alcohol and smoking increase the risk of getting diabetes. 

Prevention Strategies 

If you’re at risk of diabetes, here are a few things you can do to help prevent it:

  • Lose weight. Having excess body fat raises your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Get regular physical activity. Exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels in people with prediabetes or diabetes.
  • Eat healthy foods daily, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to manage weight.
  • Drink responsibly. Take care not to exceed the recommended daily limits. 2 drinks or less daily for men or one drink or less daily for women. 
  • Quit smoking.

Living with Diabetes Type 2

Diabetes type 2 is a chronic condition that requires treatment. You can manage your blood sugar levels with proper lifestyle modification and medication.

  1. Lifestyle modification – This includes healthy eating and regular physical exercises. Healthy lifestyle practices are the most effective for the control of diabetes. Exercise helps to prevent obesity. It also improves insulin sensitivity. 
  2. The next step is adding oral glucose-lowering medications (oral hypoglycaemics)
  3. Insulin injections

A combination of these methods is used to treat depending on several factors such as severity, response, patient compliance, and complications.

New methods are emerging to treat diabetes, such as methods that target the gut microbiome and nanoparticles that slow down the digestion and absorption of foods.  

The Bottom Line

Diabetes is a condition that, without proper management, can lead to severe health complications, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. With a proactive approach to lifestyle changes, medication as needed, and self-care, individuals with type 2 diabetes can lead fulfilling lives.

It’s about taking control and working with healthcare providers to find the best management strategies. Together, we can turn the tide on diabetes and its impact on our lives.

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