The body’s ability to control and utilize sugar (glucose) as fuel is impaired in type 2 diabetes. This long-term (chronic) illness results in too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Eventually, excessive blood sugar levels can lead to diseases of the circulatory, neurological and immunological systems.
There are basically two interconnected issues at play in type 2 diabetes. The hormone that controls the flow of sugar into your cells, insulin, is not produced by your pancreas in sufficient amounts, which causes your cells to react poorly to insulin and absorb less sugar.
Although type 1 and type 2 diabetes can start in childhood and adulthood, respectively, type 2 diabetes used to be classified as adult-onset diabetes. Although type 2 is more prevalent in elderly adults, type 2 instances have increased in younger people as a result of the rise in childhood obesity.
There’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, but decreasing weight, eating healthily, and exercising can help you manage the disease. You may also require diabetic drugs or insulin therapy if diet and exercise are insufficient to control your blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms and signs frequently appear gradually. In fact, you may have type 2 diabetes for years without realizing it. When present, signs, and symptoms may include:
- Heightened thirst
- Urinating frequently
- Increased appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Many infections
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Areas of skin that have browned, typically in the neck and armpits
Whenever to visit a doctor
If you experience any type 2 diabetes symptoms, consult your doctor.
The main causes of type 2 diabetes are two connected issues:
Insulin resistance develops in muscle, fat, and liver cells. These cells don’t absorb enough sugar because insulin doesn’t interact with them normally.
- To control blood sugar levels, the pancreas cannot generate enough insulin.
- Although the exact cause of this is uncertain, being overweight and being sedentary are major risk factors.
How insulin functions
Insulin is a hormone that comes from the gland placed behind and below the stomach (pancreas) (pancreas). In the following ways, insulin controls how the body consumes sugar:
- The pancreas secretes insulin in response to blood sugar levels.
- Sugar can enter your cells thanks to the bloodstream’s circulation of insulin.
- Your bloodstream’s level of sugar decreases.
- The pancreas produces less insulin in response to this decline.
The cells that make up muscles and other tissues primarily receive their energy from the sugar glucose. The following are some examples of how glucose is used and regulated:
- Food and your liver are the two main sources of glucose.
- Insulin helps glucose enter cells once it is taken into the circulation.
- Glucose is created and stored by your liver.
- The liver converts stored glycogen into glucose when your blood sugar levels are low, such as when you haven’t eaten in a while, to keep them within a normal range.
This method is ineffective in type 2 diabetes. Sugar accumulates up in your bloodstream rather than entering your cells. The insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas produce more insulin when blood sugar levels rise. Over time, these cells deteriorate and are unable to produce enough insulin to satisfy the body’s needs.
When the immune system accidentally kills the beta cells in type 1 diabetes, the body has little or no insulin.
Your risk of type 2 diabetes may be affected by the following factors:
- Obesity: One major danger is being overweight or obese.
- Fat distribution: A higher risk is indicated by the concentration of fat in your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs. If you are a male with a waist measurement above 40 inches (101.6 centimeters) or a woman with a measurement over 35 inches, you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (88.9 centimeters).
- Inactivity: Your risk increases the less active you are. Exercise aids in weight management burns glucose as fuel and increases insulin sensitivity in your cells.
- Family history: If a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes, your risk of developing the disease also rises.
- Race and ethnicity: Although it’s unknown why, persons of particular races and ethnicities — including Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian people, and Pacific Islanders — are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white people are.
- Blood lipid levels: An increased risk is related to low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol — and high levels of triglycerides.
- Age: The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you become older, especially around age 45.
- When your blood sugar level is over normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, the condition is called prediabetes. Prediabetes frequently develops into type 2 diabetes if left untreated.
- Risks associated with pregnancy: If you had gestational diabetes while pregnant or had a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds, your risk of getting type 2 diabetes is higher (4 kilograms).
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome raises the risk of diabetes. This frequent disorder is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, excessive hair growth, and obesity.
- Darkened skin patches—typically found in the armpits and neck—are a sign of insulin resistance.
Your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other important organs are all impacted by type 2 diabetes. Additionally, risk factors for diabetes also increase the chance of other significant chronic diseases. Your risk for these consequences or concomitant illnesses can be reduced by managing diabetes and regulating your blood sugar (comorbidities).
Diabetes and other common comorbidities could result in the following complications:
- Blood vessel and heart disease. Diabetes is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and blood vessel narrowing (atherosclerosis).
- Limbs with neuropathy, or damage to the nerves. Over time, high blood sugar can harm or kill nerves, causing tingling, numbness, burning, pain, or even ultimate loss of feeling. These symptoms typically start at the ends of the toes or fingers and progressively move up the body.
- Further nerve damage. Heart rhythm irregularities may be a result of damage to the heart’s nerves. Constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea are all symptoms of damaged digestive system nerves. Erectile dysfunction in males can result from nerve injury.
- Kidney illness dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary if diabetes results in chronic renal disease or irreversible end-stage kidney disease.
- Eye injury Diabetes may harm the blood vessels in the retina, potentially resulting in blindness, and also raises the risk of significant eye conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma.
- Skin problems. Diabetes may make you more prone to bacterial and fungal infections, among other skin issues.
- Slow recovery Cuts and blisters can develop into dangerous infections that may not heal properly if left untreated. Amputations of the toe, foot, or leg may be necessary for severe injuries.
- Impairment of hearing. Diabetes patients are more likely to experience hearing issues.
- Apneic sleep. People with type 2 diabetes frequently experience obstructive sleep apnea. The primary cause of these illnesses may be obesity. It is unclear if treating sleep apnea leads to better blood sugar regulation.
- Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-causing conditions appear to be more common in people with type 2 diabetes. Memory loss and other cognitive impairments are also associated with poor blood sugar management.
Even if you have biological relatives who have the disease, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Changes in your way of life may slow or stop the development of diabetes if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes.
A healthy way of life consists of:
- Consuming wholesome food. Pick foods with more fiber and fewer calories and fat. Put an emphasis on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Getting moving Aim for 150 or more minutes per week of cardiovascular exercise that ranges from moderate to vigorous, such as a brisk walk, a bike ride, a run, or swimming.
- Weight loss. The transition from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes can be halted by modest weight loss and weight maintenance. Losing 7% to 10% of your body weight can lower your risk of developing prediabetes.
- Avoiding prolonged inactivity. Your risk of type 2 diabetes may rise if you sit still for extended periods. Every 30 minutes, make an effort to get up and walk around for at least a few minutes.
For those with prediabetes, metformin (Fortamet, Glumetza, others), an oral diabetic medicine, may be recommended to minimize the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is typically recommended to older persons who are obese and unable to alter their lifestyles to lower blood sugar levels.