Understanding Diabetes

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and used to be called “maturity onset” or “non-insulin-dependent” diabetes. When you have diabetes your body cannot use glucose (your body’s main source of energy) in the usual way. Normally, glucose is absorbed by your body cells and burned as fuel. In Type 2 diabetes, glucose stays in your bloodstream either because your natural supply of insulin – a hormone that regulates the level of glucose in your blood – is not working properly or your body is not making enough of it. A raised blood glucose level can give you a range of symptoms including intense thirst and frequent urination. You are also much more prone to heart and circulatory problems because it is one part of a syndrome or collection of conditions, known medically as the metabolic syndrome, that causes high blood pressure and high blood fat levels. A high blood glucose level, without treatment, can damage your kidneys, nerves, and eyes. However, you can do a great deal to reduce the risk of these complications.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

People with Type 1 diabetes usually develop severe symptoms over a short time in childhood or early adulthood and their bodies cannot absorb any glucose without the help of a continuous supply of insulin either by injection every day or by an infusion of insulin through a pump. People who are prone to Type 1 diabetes have a specific genetic makeup that causes their bodies to destroy some of their own cells.

Is Type 2 less serious than Type 1 diabetes?

Definitely not. In some ways, Type 2 diabetes is a more serious condition than Type 1 because you could have it for a number of years before you are diagnosed. Consequently, you could already have developed some of the long-term complications of diabetes without being aware of them. In particular, Type 2 diabetes is linked with heart disease because of its association with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. These cause progressive thickening of your arteries over years that reduces your blood flow and increases the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. Being overweight, particularly if you carry surplus weight around your waist, makes the risk of heart disease even greater.

Why does Type 2 diabetes develop?

There is no single reason why you develop Type 2 diabetes. A combination of factors affects how likely you are to develop the condition. Being overweight and inactive are two major factors that increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Other factors that put you at a higher risk include a family history of diabetes and being a member of certain ethnic groups, such as African-American, Hispanic, or American Indian.

How common is Type 2 diabetes?

About 130 million people worldwide have Type 2 diabetes, and this number is increasing each year. In the US, more than 17 million people are known to have diabetes. About 90-95 percent of these have Type 2 diabetes. There are also many people who have Type 2 diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed with the condition.

Why is Type 2 diabetes becoming more common?

Today, people are much less active in their daily lives than those of previous generations. Therefore, they are more likely to be overweight or obese, which, in turn, increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. More children and teenagers are developing Type 2 diabetes for this reason.

What does insulin do in my body?

Insulin is a hormone (body chemical) that is made and released by your pancreas, which lies behind your stomach. Insulin acts like a key to let glucose (which comes from carbohydrate foods) move from your bloodstream into your cells, where it is used to produce energy. Your body normally produces more insulin immediately and for some time after a meal, when there is more glucose around, and less at other times. Another hormone called glucagon (also produced by your pancreas) prevents insulin from letting your blood glucose level drop too low.

What would my blood glucose level be if I didn’t have diabetes?

If you didn’t have diabetes, your insulin and glucagon would keep your blood glucose level within a narrow range (75-130 milligrams of glucose per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood). As a result, whether you eat a lot of carbohydrate or only a little, your body has the constant supply of energy it needs to work properly.

How high can blood glucose rise in someone with Type 2 diabetes?

Very rarely, a blood glucose level of up to 1,800 mg/dl can be recorded when you are first diagnosed with diabetes. The most common situations is for your blood glucose to reach a level of 180-360 mg/dl – at which stage your symptoms would lead to you being diagnosed.

What goes wrong in Type 2 diabetes?

Because your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, produces it more slowly, and/or your cells are resistant to the action of insulin, your blood glucose cannot be as finely regulated as it would be normally. As a result, it is difficult for glucose to pass into your cells to be burned for energy, so it builds up in your blood.

What does insulin resistance mean?

This term means that, even if you still produce insulin, your body cannot use it in the normal way to let glucose into your cells. Insulin resistance is linked to being overweight and being physically inactive. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you are also more likely to have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.

Howe can I tell if I have Type 2 diabetes?

You may not have any symptoms, in which case your diabetes might only be found at a routine medical or eye test. Many of the symptoms you might experience can be part of growing older – for example, feeling tired, or getting up at night to urinate – and you may not think you have diabetes, particularly if these symptoms are mild.

Will I have to inject myself with insulin every day?

Controlling your weight, eating healthily, and keeping or becoming physically active may keep your blood glucose level in the recommended range without any medication, sometimes for a short time or, in some cases, for years. If your blood glucose is regularly too high, despite your best efforts, you will be prescribed pills and, eventually, you are likely to need insulin injections.

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