Type 2 diabetes is a progressive and incurable condition that affects the way your body metabolises sugar (or glucose), your body’s important, and key source of fuel. Although historically more common in adults, type 2 diabetes is increasingly more common in children due to increases in childhood obesity.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by your body’s resistance to the effects of insulin or its insufficient production of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells.
Although there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, the condition can be well managed with health lifestyle management such as eating well, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. If diet and exercise are not enough to manage your blood sugar well, you may also need diabetes medications or insulin therapy.
Common complications of type 2 diabetesWithout effective management, type 2 diabetes can affect many major organs creating long-term complications or even life-threatening illness to your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys. Therefore, controlling your blood sugar levels is imperative to minimising these risks. Some of the potential complications of diabetes include:
Heart and blood vessel diseaseDiabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis), and high blood pressure.
Nerve damage (neuropathy)Excess sugar can harm your capillaries that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
Kidney damage (nephropathy)Diabetes can damage the ability for your kidneys to filter waste from your blood. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which often eventually requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Eye damageDiabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Foot damageNerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. If left untreated, cuts and blisters may turn into serious infections that in worse case scenarios, might result in toe, foot or leg amputation.
Loss of hearingHearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.
Skin conditionsDiabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.
Alzheimer's diseaseType 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease where the poorer your blood glucose control, the greater the risk appears to be.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly and over time. In fact, you can have type 2 diabetes for years and not know it. Some common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
Increased thirst and frequent urinationAs excess sugar builds in your bloodstream, it causes fluid to be pulled from the tissues. This may leave you thirsty and as a result, you may drink — and urinate — more than usual.
Increased hungerWithout enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted of energy. This triggers intense hunger.
Weight-lossEven if you are eating more, you may still lose weight. Without the ability to metabolise glucose, the body uses alternative fuels stored in muscle and fat. Calories are lost as excess glucose is released in the urine.
FatigueIf your cells are deprived of sugar, you may feel tired and irritable.
Blurred visionIf your blood sugar is too high, fluid may be pulled from the lenses of your eyes causing you to experience blurred vision.
Slow-healing sores or frequent infectionsType 2 diabetes may affect your ability to heal and resist infections.
Areas of darkened skinSome people with type 2 diabetes have patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds and creases of their bodies such as the armpits and neck. This condition, called acanthosis nigricans, may be a sign of insulin resistance.
Common cause of type 2 diabetesType 2 diabetes is caused by your body’s resistance to the effects of insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Genetics and environmental factors such as being overweight or leading a sedentary lifestyle, appear to play a role in the onset of diabetes.
How insulin worksInsulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. When the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream, it allows the glucose to enter in cells of your muscles, fat, and liver. By entering the cells, insulin lowers the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. As your blood sugar level drops so does the secretion of insulin from your pancreas.
If you live with type 2 diabetes, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of entering your cells. As your glucose levels (or blood sugar level) increases, insulin-producing cells signal to release more insulin into the bloodstream. However, over time, this puts a strain on these cells where it can no longer produce enough insulin to meet the body’s demands.
If you live with type 1 diabetes, it is more likely that your immune system is destroying the insulin producing cells, leaving the body with little to no insulin.
What is the role of glucoseGlucose is your body’s primary source of energy. It originates from two sources, your nutrients and your liver where the liver both stores and makes glucose. If your glucose level drops, your liver breaks down and releases its stored glucose (called glycogen) into your bloodstream to keep your glucose levels within a normal range.
There are common risk factors that may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. These includes: