Type 2 Diabetes, Causes, Risks and Treatments

Type 2 diabetes is chronic and among the most common health conditions affecting approx. 463 million adults around the world! In this condition, the levels of sugar or glucose rise abnormally in the bloodstream.

The glucose in your blood smoothly travels into the body cells with the help of a hormone known as “insulin.” Body cells use the glucose for energy necessary for performing a wide range of body functions.

In type 2 diabetes, the body cells don’t respond to the insulin hormone as effectively as needed. And in later stages of type 2 diabetes, your body is even unable to make enough insulin required for glucose movement. Uncontrolled diabetes type 2 can cause chronically elevated blood glucose levels, resulting in several symptoms and, sometimes, life-threatening complications.

As the number of diabetic patients is only increasing dramatically, it becomes very important to have basic information about the condition at least. This may be proved very handy to avoid serious and life-threatening symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Also, by educating people about type 2 diabetes, you can play an important role in increasing the chances of controlling it and saving a lot of lives.

This guide will address some very important and basic aspects of diabetes type 2, including symptoms, potential causes, risk factors, diagnosis, investigations, and treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

As we have already learned, the body of a diabetic patient is unable to use insulin effectively for the necessary movement of glucose in the cells. This scenario forces your body to be dependent on other sources of energy in organs, muscles, and tissues. This starts working as a chain reaction and may reflect with a myriad of symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes usually takes some time to develop. And the symptoms may be mild and easy to treat in the beginning. The early symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:

  • constant hunger
  • a lack of energy
  • fatigue
  • dry mouth
  • itchy skin
  • blurry vision
  • weight loss
  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urination

If diabetes type 2 is not controlled in the early stages, the symptoms may become more severe with the progress of the disease. And that’s when diabetes becomes potentially life-threatening.

A high blood glucose level for a long time may cause some severe symptoms of type 2 diabetes, including:

  • Yeast infection
  • Foot pain
  • Slow-healing cuts or sores
  • Feelings of numbness in the extremities or neuropathy
  • Dark patches around the skin, also known as “acanthosis nigricans.”

Potential Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Before concluding the causes, let’s talk a bit more about the insulin hormone. Your pancreas produces insulin, and it is released into your body every time you eat. Insulin ensures the proper transportation of glucose from the bloodstream to body cells, where it is used for energy needed for various body functions.

If you have diabetes type 2, your body becomes insulin resistant. This means your body is not using the hormone effectively anymore. As a result, your pancreas is forced to do a bit of overwork to produce more insulin.

If your pancreas remains in overwork mode for a long time, the pancreatic cells start getting damages. Eventually, your pancreas stops producing insulin completely.

What happens when your pancreas doesn’t create insulin?

If the pancreas is unable to produce the required insulin, or your body is not using the insulin as effectively as it should, there is a continuous build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. This results in the starvation of body cells for energy. Unfortunately, the doctors are yet to find the specific reason for all these events.

However, a lot of diabetes experts believe the dysfunction, incorrect cell signaling, or regulation as culprits. And we may have some very strange causes of type 2 diabetes too!

  • In some subjects, there is excessive production of glucose from the liver as well.
  • Some people are genetically susceptible to the development of diabetes type 2.
  • Genetic predisposition to obesity is almost obvious, which may be linked to an increased risk of insulin resistance.
  • An environmental trigger may also be responsible for some people.

More likely, a combination of factors, including improper production and usage of insulin, poor diet, prolonged lack of physical activities, hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, family history, etc., is responsible for a surge in blood sugar level.

Let’s focus a bit in detail on these factors

  • Genes: According to various studies, different bits of DNA also affect the way your body produces insulin.
  • Extra Body Weight: Being obese or overweight can also be responsible for insulin resistance, especially if the fat is predominantly in the mid-region.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Although it is not linked directly, people having insulin resistance often get a group of health conditions like extra waist fat, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, triglycerides, and high cholesterol.
  • Excessive Glucose from the Liver: It may also be among the major causes of type 2 diabetes. When your body’s blood sugar level is lower than normal, your liver goes in a hyperactive mode and produces and sends extra glucose. Your blood sugar level increases when you eat, and your liver normally slows down and stores glucose for later use. But some people’s liver is unable to do so because of various health reasons. And, they continuously crank out for sugar.
  • Broken Beta Cells: If the insulin-making cells send out an inaccurate amount of insulin and your blood sugar level gets deranged at the wrong time. And high blood sugar can badly affect these cells as well.
  • Bad Communication Between Cells: Sometimes, cells don’t send the right signals or are unable to get the message rightly. When any of these conditions directly or indirectly affect the production or use of insulin, a chain reaction starts and may cause diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

Certain factors are responsible for increasing the chances of you getting affected with diabetes type 2. The more you fall under these categories, the higher are the chances of getting diabetes type 2.

  • Age – 45 or more
  • Family History: Diabetes type 2 in one or both parents and siblings
  • Ethnicity: Native American, African American, Asian American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic or Latino.

Risk Factors Related to Medical History or Overall Health Condition May Include:

  • Prediabetes
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • High blood pressure, even if it’s treated and under control
  • Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Depression
  • Having a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Gestational diabetes while you were pregnant
  • High triglycerides
  • Being overweight or obese

Some other but uncommon type 2 diabetes risk factors are:

  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Getting very little or no physical exercise
  • Sleeping too little or too much

Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

If not contained at the right time, diabetes type 2 may affect various organs in various ways, including:

  • Heart and Blood Vessels: You are more than four times at higher risk of getting a heart problem or stroke. There are also high possibilities of you having chest pain (angina) and blocked blood vessels (atherosclerosis).
  • Kidneys: Prolonged diabetes may also cause damage to the kidney(s), even kidney failure.
  • Eyes: High blood sugar may be responsible for damaging blood vessels in the posterior of the eyes (retinopathy). It may result in blindness, especially if not given quick and proper medical attention.
  • Nerves: Blocked or damaged nerves may result in a wide range of problems, including numbness of hands or feet, inaccurate digestion, and insufficient sexual response.
  • Skin: Skin problems are among the common complications of type 2 diabetes. You may get a wide range of skin problems due to insufficient circulation of blood. Wound healing also gets hampered due to this.

Investigations and Diagnosis of Diabetes Type 2

Your doctor may perform blood tests to test the signs of diabetes type 2. Doctors usually perform two tests to confirm the diagnosis. One test is also enough in case if you have moderate to severe symptoms with sudden onset.

  • A1c: It’s an analysis of average blood glucose level over the last two to three months.
  • Fasting Plasma Glucose: The “fasting blood sugar test” checks the blood sugar level on an empty stomach. Your doctor will ask you to avoid eating or drinking anything except water for at least 8 hours before the test.
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): This test studies the blood glucose level before and two hours after drinking something sweet to check your body’s response after getting sugar from your diet.

Diabetes Type 2 Treatment

Management of diabetes type 2 is more important than the treatment. And a combination of medications, lifestyle, and diet adjustments can be very, very effective to ensure a very healthy and active life.

  • Weight Loss: Getting rid of extra pounds may help. Losing 5% of your total body weight is good. And it will be ideal if you can lose at least 7% of your body weight. That means someone with a total body weight of 180 pounds can effectively control their blood sugar levels by losing about 13 pounds. Weight loss seems very overwhelming, but a lot of people have done it with great success and can give you some surprising results.
  • Healthy Eating: There’s no particular diet for diabetes type 2. You can get some assistance from a registered dietitian to know about a healthy and suitable diet depending on your blood glucose level and other health conditions. Doctors and dieticians usually Focus on a diet with:
  • Lower calories
  • Cutting down the intake of refined carbohydrates, especially from sweets, even refined sugar.
  • Loading your diet with more fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercises: Physical exercises can have surprising results in your efforts to reduce your blood glucose levels. Daily physical exercises of 20 to 60 minutes per day won’t only reduce the glucose in sugar but also help you healthily manage your body weight.

Exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, weightlifting, strength training, yoga, etc., can effectively complement diabetes type 2 treatment.

  • Keep a note of your blood sugar levels: These days, it is very easy to self-check the blood sugar levels with the help of advanced glucose monitoring devices. You can ask your doctor whether you should continuously check your blood glucose levels or not.

Different Medications for Type 2 Diabetes

You may have to take some medications if you are unable to keep the blood glucose levels in check even after taking insulin and certain lifestyle changes. Depending on your overall health condition, your doctor may prescribe one or more of these medications:

  • Metformin (Fortamet, Glumetza, Riomet, Glucophage): It is among the preferred medication for diabetes type 2. It limits the amount of glucose produced by your liver and improves the body’s insulin response.
  • Sulfonylureas: This group of medications improves the natural production of insulin.
  • Meglitinides: Works to improve the production of insulin from the body but gives faster results than sulfonylureas.
  • DPP4 Inhibitors: These medicines, including Inaglipitin, Onglyza, and Januvia, are also good at reducing blood glucose levels but may cause inflammation of the pancreas and joints pain.

Prevention of Diabetes Type 2

Preventing diabetes type 2 is easier than a lot of people think. You don’t have to do much either! That old mantra of living a healthy and active lifestyle is enough to keep diabetes type 2 at bay. But you have to do it on a daily basis without giving up. Follow these easy and practicable tips to protect yourself from diabetes type 2.

  • Lose weight if you are overweight. This becomes a must if you are obese. (See the difference between overweight and obese)
  • Have a healthy diet with loads of fruits, vegetables, salads, grains, and nuts, etc.
  • Do at least thirty minutes of brisk walking every day. It would be great if you can complement it with some other exercises.
  • Avoid smoking and alcoholism: If you are habitual of smoking or drinking, quit before you face the consequences. Talking to a doctor can be very helpful.

Unfortunately, diabetes type 2 has become a very common health problem and is affecting more and more people every year. Having some important and basic information related to diabetes type 2 can be proved immensely helpful for prevention as well as treatment. Hopefully, we have helped you with a lot of important information related to diabetes type 2, and you are now well prepared to prevent it rather than following a restricted life after getting it.