Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease that needs continuous medical attention; although eating a balanced diet and leading an overall healthy lifestyle are things you can to do to help yourself lead a normal life. Of the two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2 – type 2 diabetes is far more common (with some 90% of the diabetic population suffering from type 2).
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
This type of diabetes is also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. Here, the body is unable to use the insulin produced by the pancreas to break down sugars and use them as fuel. In some cases it may be that the person simply has an insulin deficiency, causing levels of glucose in the blood to go up and resulting in diabetes.
Despite what was previously thought, type 2 diabetes is not strictly limited to adults; many youngsters, and even infants have been reported to have the disease. However, factors such as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle have been found to be a major cause of the disease – even in those who do not have a family history of diabetes.
The major cause of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. Normally, the insulin secreted from the pancreas is taken by the fat and muscle cells to produce energy. But in a diabetic person this does not happen, and in turn the insulin levels in the body as well as the sugar levels in the blood keep on increasing. People who are overweight have a higher risk of this as excess fat usually interferes with the body’s ability to use insulin.
If someone in your family, especially a close relative like parents or siblings, has type 2 diabetes, your chances of getting the disease are relatively high.
Some other factors that may enhance the diabetic condition in the body are:
- Increased hepatic glucose production in the body at odd times
- Impaired function of the beta cells present in the pancreas
- Cancer patients who have received Hematopoeitic Cell Transplantation
- Age more than 45 years
- Ethnicity: Studies have shown that African–American, Native-American and Hispanic-American communities show a higher number of diabetes cases than other ethnic communities
- High blood pressure
- History of gestational diabetes
- Low physical activity
- Triglyceride cholesterol level of more than 250mg/Dl
- Previous diagnosis of impaired glucose tolerance
Usually people with type 2 diabetes will not be aware of it for almost 4-5 years, as the symptoms are generally not very obvious. But some of the diabetes symptoms to look out for include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Sudden loss of weight
- Increased hunger
- Infection taking greater time to heal
- Blurred vision
- Erectile dysfunction
Blood tests, which reveal the level of glucose in the blood, are usually the first step in diagnosing diabetes. If your blood glucose levels are higher than 126 mg/Dl on an empty stomach, or higher than 200 mg/dl on a full stomach, this may be a sign of diabetes.
Another diabetic test that may be done is the oral glucose tolerance test, in which the blood is checked for glucose presence 2 hours after taking a glucose syrup or juice. If the glucose level is more than 200 mg/dl then diabetes is usually determined.
For both types of diabetes, treatment is generally emphasized over curing the disease; as to date there are no universal cures available for diabetes. However, with certain changes in lifestyle, it is possible to control diabetes outbreaks. In fact, treating diabetes is extremely important for a variety of reasons; not least of which is that there are many other illnesses that are linked to diabetes, such as like heart disease, kidney disease and foot and eye problems.
When a person is first diagnosed with diabetes, the doctor’s goal is to lower the glycemic index or the blood glucose level as this can have ill effect on other body parts. This can be achieved by adhering to a diabetes diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.
The next step is to introduce diabetes medications that can help in decreasing the insulin resistance of the cells and increasing the functioning of the beta cells of the pancreas as with time their functioning becomes lesser and lesser. Some of the drugs that may be used are, sulfonylureas, alpha glucocidase inhibitors, meglitinides and biaguanides.
Many type 2 diabetes patients will also need to take insulation therapy when the functioning of the pancreas becomes reduced. Insulin can be administered with an injection or an insulin pump that sends regular doses of insulin into the body. Along with this you may continue to take oral diabetes medicines.
In spite of all this medical treatment, there are several important things you can do at home to get control over your diabetes. These include:
- Self testing: Regular self testing of glucose levels in the blood using a glucometer or urine tests will give you an idea of how well your diabetes is under control as well as alert you to what effects the different diet, exercise and medications are having on your system.
Diet: A diabetes diet is nothing but a balanced diet with lots of dark green vegetables and fruits. Try to avoid as many sugar based products as possible and talk with your doctor about what the right amounts of other foods (like proteins, fats and carbohydrates) are for you. This will not only help in keeping your sugar levels under control, but it will also keep you at a healthy weight, which is a significant risk factor for diabetes.
Physical activity: In addition to weight loss, regular exercise has many advantages for diabetics. Most importantly, it helps to lower the amount of glucose in your blood as well as also improve your body’s ability to produce insulin. It also improves blood flow, lowers blood pressure and lowers your cholestoral.
Some of the complications that might arise from type 2 diabetes are:
- Hyperglycemia. This condition, marked by excessively high blood sugar levels (over 180), occurs when diabetes is not under control or when your diet, exercise and medication are not properly balanced.
- Hypoglycemia is the sudden decrease in the blood glucose level which may occur if you have missed or delayed a meal, are drinking alcohol, or if you are taking insulin but not coordinating it properly with your mealtimes. Excessive exercise may also cause this symptom.
- Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS), is a very serious condition that can occur in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but it is more common in people with type 2 diabetes. With HHNS, the blood sugar levels rise and the body tries to remove the excess by passing it into the urine. As a result, most people feel the need for increased urination. Later the urine becomes very dark and you may feel thirsty. If you do not drink anything, however HHNS can result in dehydration, which can cause a seizure, coma and even death.
- Heart disease is another unfortunate and common side effect of type 2 diabetes. Astoundingly, 2 out of ever 3 diabetics will die from either heart disease or stroke. Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are key in reducing your risks of acquiring heart disease.
- Nephropathy or kidney disease are also very common with diabetes as our kidneys can become overworked due to the constant need to filter out sugars in the blood, causing them to eventually break down.
- Neuropathy or nerve damage occurs in some 50% of all diabetic patients. It is caused by unbalanced glucose levels that over time can harm the blood vessels and nerve endings. The two most common forms are sensorimotor and autonomic neuropathy.
- Glaucoma, cataracts or retinopathy are all possible eye complications that can result from type 2 diabetes.