Living with Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes


Type 2 Diabetes is a serious condition which causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. It affects people from all social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds.

It is estimated that more than 34 million Americans have diabetes, including approximately 7 million who have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed. Worldwide, it is estimated that over 463 million people are living with some form of the disease.

Diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes), the medical term for the condition, occurs when the body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin, a hormone produced by special cells in the pancreas called islet (eye-let) cells. Insulin is like a key that opens the door of a cell so that food, or glucose, can enter. Without insulin, this glucose builds up in the blood and leads to starvation of the body’s cells, as well as dehydration and break down of body tissue.

There are multiple forms of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. Approximately 90 percent of those with diabetes have type 2. Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which all the insulin-producing cells are destroyed, people with type 2 diabetes are able to produce some of their own insulin, but their bodies are unable to use this insulin to completely control blood sugar levels. This is known as insulin resistance.

Who gets type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes usually develops after the age of 35, although it can occur in younger people as well, especially if they are overweight and have a sedentary lifestyle.

Commonly referred to as “adult onset” diabetes, 80% of those with this form of diabetes are overweight and have a family history of type 2 diabetes.

Certain ethnic groups have a higher risk of developing this form of the disease, including African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians. In addition, women who had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) are also at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Knowing the warning signs of type 2 diabetes is helpful for early diagnosis. Symptoms can include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Infections which are slow or difficult to heal

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually happen over time, unlike the symptoms of type 1 diabetes which are sudden and often too severe to overlook. That’s why many people mistakenly overlook the warning signs of type 2, and often think the symptoms are signs of other conditions, such as aging, overworking, or hot weather. Because these symptoms are often ignored, it is estimated that more than seven million people in the United States have diabetes and are not aware of it.

Individuals who have undiagnosed or untreated diabetes for several years may develop some complications, such as nerve damage, pain or numbness in their hands and feet, or changes in their eyes or kidneys. People who are over 35, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or who belong to a high-risk group should be checked at least once a year to detect diabetes at its earliest stages.

What is the treatment for type 2 diabetes?

The treatment for type 2 diabetes focuses on improving the person’s ability to more effectively use the insulin his/her own body produces to normalize blood sugar levels. A treatment program including diet, exercise, and weight loss will help decrease insulin resistance and, in turn, lower blood sugar levels. If blood sugar levels are still high, there are many medications which can help to either stimulate more insulin production in the pancreas or help the body better use the insulin it makes. Insulin injections may be needed if these oral medications, along with diet and exercise, do not lower blood sugar levels enough.

What are the problems associated with type 2 diabetes?

New advances in research and treatment methods are helping people with type 2 diabetes live full, active and healthy lives. However, it is important to remember that diabetes is a serious, chronic condition with potential short-term and long-term complications. Frequent self-monitoring of blood sugar levels and carefully following an individualized meal and exercise program is a good course of action.

People with undiagnosed, untreated or long-term diabetes are at risk of developing complications, including nerve and blood vessel damage. These potential complications, which can affect the eyes, kidneys, limbs, heart, brain, and stomach, may occur after many years of living with diabetes. Early detection, improved medications, and new technologies may help prevent or minimize diabetes-related complications.

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

The key to success is in preventing pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Identifying risk means asking yourself the following key questions:

  • Am I aged 35 years or older?

  • Am I overweight?

  • Do I have high blood pressure or cholesterol?

  • Do I have a family history of diabetes?

  • Am I African American, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian?

  • Do I have a history of diabetes occurring during pregnancy?

  • Did I deliver a baby weighing more than 9 pounds?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you should make an appointment with your physician to be screened. To lower your risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes try the following:

  • Look for opportunities to move more during the day

  • Exercise 30 minutes at least five times per week

  • Eat a healthy meal plan including grains, cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables, low fat dairy and lean meat

  • Reduce fat intake

  • Reduce food portions

  • Maintain an ideal body weight

 

The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation's What is Diabetes? brochure has important information about type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Get more answers to your questions about type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes symptoms and treatments. (In Spanish: ¿Que es La Diabetes?).
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Diabetes Research Institute Foundation's Guide for School Personnel and Childcare Providers
Educate teachers, school personnel and other child care providers about taking care of your child with type 1 diabetes. 
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A Guide for School Personnel and Child Care Providers

Educate teachers, school personnel and other child care providers about taking care of your child with type 1 diabetes. Download this helpful guide now.