What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes can affect all people, regardless of age. Early symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be missed, so those affected may not even know they have the condition. An estimated one out of every three people with type 2 diabetes are not aware they have it. Diabetes interferes with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates for energy, leading to high levels of blood sugar. These chronically high blood sugar levels increase a person's risk of developing nerve problems, vision loss, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions.
Warning Sign of Diabetes:
Although people with type 2 diabetes may not have specific symptoms, an increase in thirst is one symptom that is characteristic of the condition. The increased thirst can accompany other symptoms like frequent urination, feelings of unusual hunger, dry mouth, and weight gain or loss.
Other symptoms that can occur if high blood sugar levels persist are fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches.
Often, type 2 diabetes is only identified after its negative health consequences are apparent. Certain infections and sores that take a long time to heal are a warning sign. Other possible signs include frequent yeast infections or urinary tract infections and itchy skin.
Sexual problems can occur as a result of type 2 diabetes. Since diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves in the sex organs, decreased sensation can develop, potentially leading to difficulties with orgasm. Vaginal dryness in women and impotence in men are other complications of diabetes. Estimates suggest that between 35% and 70% of men with diabetes will eventually suffer from impotence. Statistics for women show that about one-third of women with diabetes will have some kind of sexual dysfunction.
Risks You Can Prevent
Certain risk factors related to both lifestyle choices and medical conditions can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These include:
Being overweight or obese, especially around the waist
Lack of exercise
Consuming a diet that is high in processed meat, fat, sweets, and red meats
Triglyceride levels over 250 mg/dL
Low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol (below 35 mg/dL)
Risks You Can’t Prevent
Some risk factors for diabetes can’t be controlled. Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, and African Americans have a higher than average risk for getting diabetes. Having a family history (parent or sibling) with diabetes increases your risk. Those over 45 have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than younger people.
Women's Risk Factors
Women who developed gestational diabetes in pregnancy have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The same goes for women who have babies larger than 9 pounds. The insulin resistance associated with poly-cystic ovary syndrome also places women with this condition at a higher risk for diabetes.
How Does Insulin Work?
Insulin is a hormone that allows the body to efficiently use glucose as fuel. After carbohydrates are broken down into sugars in the stomach, glucose enters the circulation and stimulates the pancreas to release insulin in the proper amount. Insulin allows the uptake of glucose by body cells for use as energy.
How Type 2 Diabetes is Diagnosed
The hemoglobin A1c test measures the amount of glycosylated hemoglobin (hemoglobin bound to glucose) in your blood and provides information about your average blood glucose levels over the previous 2 to 3 months. Hemoglobin A1c levels over 6.5% are suggestive of diabetes. Another diagnostic test is the fasting blood glucose test. If your fasting blood glucose level is over 126, this establishes that diabetes is present. Random blood glucose levels over 200 are also consistent with diabetes.
Testing Blood Glucose
Your doctor can suggest how often you should test your blood glucose. Testing can give a good idea of the extent to which your diabetes is under control and can tell you if your management plan needs to be altered. Some common times to test blood sugars are upon awakening, before and after meals, before and after exercise or physical activity, and at night.
Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
Type 2 diabetes is preventable in many cases. At the least, it is possible to reduce the incidence of complications of diabetes by eating a healthy diet, getting moderate exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also helpful for people at risk to be screened for diabetes and pre-diabetes, so that management can begin early in the course of the disease. This reduces the risk of long-term problems.