What is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition and occurs when the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal. The cells in your body need insulin to change glucose into energy. Glucose comes from the carbohydrates in the food you eat (food such as rice, pasta, cereals, bread, dates, sweet foods and drinks). If your body does not produce enough insulin or cannot use the insulin efficiently, then glucose cannot get into your cells to do its work and your blood glucose levels will rise. Type 2 diabetes, the most common type, usually begins with insulin resistance. This means that your pancreas is making enough insulin, but your cells are not able to use it. When your cells don’t get the sugar they need, your pancreas works harder at first to make more insulin. But after a while, your pancreas stops being able to make enough insulin.
Although there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, there is increasing evidence to show that people who are living with overweight or obesity can achieve remission – in other words, no longer having type 2 diabetes, having normal HbA1c results, and not needing diabetes medications – through sustained, substantial weight loss.
If left untreated Type 2 Diabetes can cause serious long-term complications that may affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and major blood vessels. However, with optimal management the risks of developing complications can be significantly reduced.
Insulin is the hormone that ‘unlocks’ the cells in your body allowing the glucose to enter the cells to be used for energy.
Type 2 Diabetes develops when glucose cannot enter the body’s cells.
What are the symptoms?
You may have:
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Increased thirst
- Unintended weight loss
- Wounds or cuts slower to heal than normal
- Frequent urination
- Itching in the genital area and frequent episodes of thrush
Type 2 diabetes develops slowly and the symptoms are usually less severe. Some people may not notice any symptoms at all and their diabetes is only picked up in a routine medical check up.
When should I see a doctor?
People of all ages should consult a doctor if they notice the above signs and symptoms.
Diabetes is usually diagnosed by a clinic or hospital laboratory using one or more methods. Staff might measure your fasting blood sugar (after 8-12 hours of fasting) on two separate occasions or measure your blood sugar before and after a sugary drink (this is known as an oral glucose tolerance test). We may measure your Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which is a marker of your blood sugar control in the preceding 3 months.
Why have you developed Type 2 Diabetes?
It usually appears in middle age or later but younger people are now developing type 2 diabetes too. People with one or more of the following are also at an increased risk:
- Family history: If diabetes is “in the family” ie mother, father or brother/ sister
- Obesity. If you are overweight or suffer from obesity your risk of type 2 diabetes is increased.
- Inactivity: The less active you are, the greater your risk of type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Prediabetes: is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Left untreated, prediabetes often progresses to type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes: Women who have had diabetes during pregnancy have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women with PCOS are also at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if they suffer from obesity.
How will I manage my health?
The key to managing your condition is to keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as you can. Learning the skills you need to manage your diabetes will take time, but soon they will become part of your daily routine.
Many people can control their blood sugars through lifestyle changes alone. Others will also need medication to bring the blood sugars within the target range.
How do I stay as healthy as possible?
- Try to attend all your appointments where you will receive help and advice as well as screening for any complications. Health problems picked up at an early stage can be treated more successfully which is why having regular medical check-ups is important.
- Self-monitor – monitoring blood sugar is appropriate for some individuals, discuss this with your doctor.
- Take your medications as advised and ensure you have a continued supply.
- Even if you take medication, healthy lifestyle choices remain essential for preventing or managing type 2 diabetes.
- Seek help to stop smoking. Smoking significantly increases the risk of complications of diabetes especially heart disease
- Have your eyes screened yearly and inspect your feet daily.
- Blood pressure control is very important for people with diabetes – you may require medication to control this.
- You may also require medication to lower cholesterol levels if they are high.
- Every person’s health circumstances are different so speak to your healthcare team so you can together agree on goals that are suitable for you.