What Is Type 2 Diabetes? Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes produce insulin; however, either their pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin adequately. This is called insulin resistance. When there isn’t enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose (sugar) can’t get into the body’s cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the body’s cells are not able to function properly. Other problems associated with the buildup of glucose in the blood include:
- Damage to the body. Over time, the high glucose levels in the blood may damage the nerves and small blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, and heart and predispose a person to atherosclerosis (hardening) of the large arteries that can cause heart attack and stroke.
- Dehydration. The buildup of sugar in the blood can cause an increase in urination. When the kidneys lose the glucose through the urine, a large amount of water is also lost, causing dehydration.
- Diabetic Coma (Hyperosmolar nonketotic diabetic coma) . When a person with type 2 diabetes becomes very ill or severely dehydrated and is not able to drink enough fluids to make up for the fluid losses, they may develop this life-threatening complication.
Who Gets Type 2 Diabetes? Anyone can get type 2 diabetes. However, those at highest risk for the disease are those who
- Are over 45
- Are obese or overweight
- Have had gestational diabetes
- Have family members who have type 2 diabetes
- Have prediabetes
- Are inactive
- Have low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides levels
- Have high blood pressure
- Are members of certain racial or ethnic groups
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Although it is more common than type 1 diabetes, the causes of type 2 diabetes are less well understood. It is likely caused by multiple factors and not a single problem. Type 2 diabetes can run in families, but the exact nature of how it’s inherited or the identity of a single genetic factor is not known.
What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
Very often, people with type 2 diabetes will have no symptoms When symptoms of type 2 diabetes occur, they can vary from person to person and may include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and occasionally vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
- Frequent infections of the skin, urinary tract or vagina
- Sores that are slow to heal
Rarely, a person may be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after presenting to the hospital in a diabetic coma. How Is Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosed? To diagnose type 2 diabetes, your health care provider will first check for abnormalities in your blood (high blood glucose level) during a random fasting blood test or through a screening test known as the 2 hour glucose tolerance test. Or you may get a blood test called a hemoglobin A1C that reflects your average blood sugar for the past 2 to 3 days. In addition, he or she may look for glucose or ketone bodies in your urine. Complications Associated With Type 2 Diabetes If your type 2 diabetes isn’t well controlled, there are a number of serious or life-threatening problems you may experience, including:
- Retinopathy . People with type 2 diabetes may already have abnormalities in the eyes related to the development of diabetes. Over time more and more people who initially do not have eye problems related to the disease will develop some form of eye problem. It is important to control not only sugars but blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent progression of eye disease. Fortunately, the vision loss isn’t significant in most.
- Kidney damage . The risk of kidney disease increases over time, meaning the longer you have diabetes the greater your risk. This complication carries significant risk of serious kidney failure if not diagnosed and treated early.
- Poor blood circulation and nerve damage. Damage to the blood vessels can lead to increased risk of stroke and heart attack as well as peripheral artery disease. Damage to nerves and hardening of the arteries leads to decreased sensation and poor blood circulation in the feet. This can lead to increased infections and an increased risk of ulcers which heal poorly and can in turn significantly raises the risk of amputation. Damage to nerves may also lead to digestive problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.