Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Prognosis

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type 2 diabetes

1Overview

Diabetes is a long-lasting and chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to control the blood sugar levels in the body. Type 2 diabetes is a condition wherein the cells become insulin resistant, which means that the glucose accumulates in the blood stream, causing a string of serious complications.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, the type 2 variant is reversible with just lifestyle modification and early treatment. If you have type 2 diabetes, the body does not use insulin properly, also called insulin resistance. When this happens, the pancreas makes up for this by increasing the rate at which it makes insulin. However, over time, it isn’t able to keep up to control the blood glucose levels in the body.

In some cases, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, called reduced insulin production, or sometimes, it can’t work effectively to produce adequate amounts of insulin to cope with the glucose levels in the body. This disease is so common; it represents about 85 to 90 percent of all diabetes cases.

In the United States alone, a total of 29.1 million of the population has diabetes in 2014. Out of this number, only 21 million are diagnosed and the remaining 8.1 million do not know that they have the illness.

2Symptoms

The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, mostly because these symptoms result from the accumulation of glucose in the blood. The most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • Excessive hunger (polyphagia)
  • Frequent urination (polyuria)
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive and unexplained fatigue
  • Blurred vision or vision problems
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Recurrent infections including yeast and thrush infections
  • Slow healing wounds, sores or lesions

3Causes

In a healthy person, the pancreas is responsible for producing and releasing insulin, the hormone that aids in the entry of glucose into the different cells of the body. However, in people with type 2 diabetes, the cells become insulin resistant, leading to increased blood sugar levels in the body.

Type 2 diabetes is usually caused by various factors, including:

Obesity And Physical Inactivity

Being obese and sedentary may increase the likelihood of type 2 diabetes. Excess weight is sometimes the culprit of insulin resistance. Also, the location of the body fat makes the difference. When you have excess fats in the stomach area, it could lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Genetics

When you have parents or siblings who have type 2 diabetes, you have an increased risk of developing the disease too.

Lifestyle

Aside from genetics, people who have living a healthier life are at a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, when you have a lack of exercise, eat unhealthy food choices, you may develop type 2 diabetes.

Insulin Resistance

The combinations of various causative factors could eventually lead to insulin resistance, the culprit in type 2 diabetes. The pancreas may even produce increased levels of insulin in the body, but the problem is, the cells are resistant to insulin, leading to the accumulation of glucose in the blood.

4Risk Factors

The risk factors for Type 2 diabetes make a group of people susceptible to developing the disease. The risk factors include:

Race or Ethnicity

 Certain race or ethnic groups are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans are more likely to have diabetes than other races. Type 2 diabetes is also common in South Asian people.

Family History

 Type 2 diabetes can run in families. If a close family member like parents or siblings has type 2 diabetes, you are at an increased risk of developing it.

Age

 People who are above 40 years old are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than their younger peers.

Obesity or Being Overweight

 Being obese or overweight also increases the risk of developing insulin resistance.

Other conditions

 You may have a higher risk of having type 2 diabetes if you have other conditions such as hypertension, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), high cholesterol levels and pre-diabetes.

5Complications

The complications of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2 are almost similar. When there are prolonged and uncontrolled high blood glucose levels, you might develop these complications:

Cardiovascular Disease

One of the potentially-fatal complications of diabetes is a cardiovascular disease such as stroke, heart problem, high blood pressure and heart attack. Diabetes increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) for up to five times.

Furthermore, when the blood has too much glucose in it, this could lead to atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing of the blood vessels. This condition increases the risk of high blood pressure and other fatal health consequences.

Kidney Disease

The kidneys clean the blood, and if they’re damaged, waste products build up in the blood. When the kidney disease arises from diabetes, it’s called diabetic nephropathy.

Slow Healing Of Wounds

One of the most common complications of diabetes or increased blood sugar levels is impaired wound healing. People with diabetes may not feel they have wounds on their feet or legs because the condition impairs nerve function and peripheral circulation. As a result, when you have even small wounds, they could become worse and infected. Some people had their extremities amputated because of necrosis or tissue death.

Nerve Damage

Another common complication of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage. When you have this condition, you will lose the feeling in your extremities, specifically the hands and feet. This results from the impaired or poor circulation of blood to those areas.

6Diagnosis

The doctor will conduct a medical history interview and a list of the symptoms you have. If you have the symptoms of diabetes, he may request for various laboratory examinations to confirm the diagnosis:

Random Blood Glucose Test

This test aims to diagnose diabetes when there are symptoms of the disease, and the healthcare professionals can’t wait until the patient has fasted. This blood test can be done at any time of the day. However, it is less accurate than other blood glucose tests.

Fasting Blood Glucose Test

 This test measures the glucose levels at a single point in time. However, it is more accurate when done in the morning and after fasting for eight hours. Fasting means having nothing to drink or eat, except for sips of water.

A1C Test

 This blood test measures the amount or levels of glucose in the blood for over two to three months. It specifically measures the amount of glucose attached to the hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

 This test is usually recommended for pregnant women who are suspected to have gestational diabetes. This condition is marked by the increase glucose levels as caused by pregnancy.

7Treatment

Type 2 is reversible and treatable. With lifestyle modifications and a shift to healthy living, the cells will become insulin sensitive again. There are many treatment options and ways to manage type 2 diabetes:

Blood Glucose Monitoring

The blood sugar levels in your body will signal if the treatment is working. It is important to check the levels several times a day to be able to know when to administer the insulin injectables.

Diet and Exercise

One way to make your cells insulin sensitive is through lifestyle changes. Becoming more active and eating healthy options will help you maintain a healthy weight, control your blood glucose levels and prevent other conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

Diabetes Medications

There are various diabetes medications in the market today. It is important to note that you must not take any medications without the prescription of your doctor. Doctors may prescribe medicines such as metformin, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, SGLT2 inhibitors and DPP-4 inhibitors to reduce blood sugar levels.

In more serious cases, insulin therapy can be given too.

8Prevention

For people who have the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, it is important that as early as now, you’ll prevent the disease. There are many ways to prevent type 2 diabetes:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Lose weight if you’re obese or overweight
  • Regular physical activity
  • Healthy food options and choices
  • Reduce portion sizes when eating
  • Reduce the consumption of carbohydrates and refine sugars
  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Controlling your cholesterol levels
  • Refrain from smoking
  • Schedule a yearly physical exam and regular eye check up

9Prognosis

Many studies have shown that having type 2 diabetes cuts years off your life because of the wide array of complications that are life-threatening.

The good news is, type 2 diabetes is completely reversible and treatable as long as the patient will adhere to the lifestyle changes needed. The only way to treat this condition is to become healthier, more active and by eating healthier food options.

However, if you have type 2 diabetes and you’re not doing anything to stem the disease, this may lead to serious health consequences and the development of potentially-fatal complications such as kidney failure, heart disease, heart attack, necrosis of the extremities which may need amputations, blindness, stroke and even death.