Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is the most widespread form of the disease. It most often strikes those over 20 years of age. The pancreas is still functional, but the cells of the tissues and muscles become unresponsive or the pancreas can no longer manufacture enough insulin.

Obesity greatly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but the exact cause is unclear. Most type 2 diabetics are overweight, but some are able to regulate it through improved diet, oral meds and physical activity.

What are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetics do not always notice symptoms, especially at first.

Symptoms include:

  • Slow healing bruises, cuts, sores and infections
  • Lethargy
  • Unusual hunger
  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Vision disturbances
  • Darkened creases and patches around the neck and under the arms (acanthosis nigricans)

Type 2 Diabetes Causes

The root cause of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. This occurs when muscle, liver and fat cells struggle to use insulin efficiently to metabolize glucose, which is a form of energy for the cells. This causes the body to produce more insulin to compensate. Gradually, as insulin resistance worsens, the body becomes incapable of producing more insulin and blood glucose levels rise, which is what causes symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

There are a number of factors which cause insulin resistance. A major one is obesity. Those who are obese are significantly more likely to develop insulin resistance, but where they carry excess fat also influences the likelihood of type 2 diabetes. Those with lots of excess belly fat are particularly at risk.

There’s also a genetic factor to type 2 diabetes. Those with a family history of the disease are more likely to develop it themselves.

The disease is also more prevalent in the following ethnic groups:

  • African Americans
  • Asian Americans
  • Alaska Natives
  • Hispanics/Latinos
  • Native Americans
  • Native Hawaiians
  • Pacific Islanders

How is Type 2 Diabetes Treated?

The goal is to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

Treatments to maintain normal blood glucose levels:

Regular physical activities and exercise with a doctor’s approval may include:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Bike riding
  • Yoga
  • Dancing
  • Gardening

Diet plan that includes:

  • Whole grains
  • Fiber
  • Healthy snacks
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat vitamin-rich foods
  • Fruit

Weight loss

  • Reduced calorie diet plan
  • Bariatric surgery

Oral medication

  • Metformin
  • DPP-4 inhibitors
  • GLP-1 receptor agonists
  • SGLT2 inhibitors
  • Sulfonylureas
  • Meglitiniides

Insulin

  • Needle and syringe
  • Insulin pen
  • Insulin pump

Regular glucose monitoring

  • Keep a daily journal

It important to be aware of possible complications of type 2 diabetes including:

Low blood sugar symptoms may include:

  • Unusual sweating (possibly cold)
  • Shakiness
  • Weakness
  • Hunger
  • Faintness
  • Confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Speech problems

High blood sugar symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Absence of saliva
  • Increased urine output
  • Queasiness
  • Lethargy
  • Vision problems

Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome is a medical emergency. Obtain immediate care. Symptoms may include:

  • Blood sugar readings of more than 600 mg/dL
  • Absence of saliva
  • Extreme thirst
  • Fever exceeding 101 degrees F.
  • Vision problems
  • Bewilderment
  • Lethargy
  • Dark urine
  • Delusions

Diabetic ketoacidosis

  • Extreme thirst
  • Absence of saliva
  • Fruity breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

There are no curative treatments for type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, type 2 diabetes can be controlled using the aforementioned treatments and lifestyle changes. With a healthy diet, weight loss and doctor-approved exercise, in some cases type 2 diabetes medications are no longer necessary.

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention

One of the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes is to lose weight permanently, particularly if you tend to carry excess weight on your belly. Losing just 5 to 7% of your body weight could help to prevent or delay diabetes. However, striving for a healthy BMI is ideal, because it will also help to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Exercise can be an effective tool for weight loss, but regular physical activity is also known to help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Ideally, you should aim for 30 minutes of exercise five times each week, but those who are currently very sedentary should start at a lower rate of activity and gradually increase it.

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Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017