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Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes: What You Need to Know

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Updated November 21, 2008

Type 2 Diabetes
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What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Increasingly, type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed in children and adolescents. This may be due to weight gain and lack of exercise in children and teens.

What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?

If you think you might have diabetes, you should visit your doctor to get diagnosed. Although some people with diabetes have no symptoms, many people with the condition may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • frequent urination
  • excessive thirst
  • unexplained weight loss
  • extreme hunger
  • sudden vision changes
  • tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • feeling very tired much of the time
  • very dry skin
  • sores that are slow to heal
  • more infections than usual

What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Diabetes?

The more of the following risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes:

  • age 45 or older
  • being overweight or obese
  • a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • African American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, or Hispanic American/Latino heritage
  • prior history of gestational diabetes or birth of at least one baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • high blood pressure measuring 140/90 or higher
  • abnormal cholesterol -- HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) is 35 or lower, or a triglyceride level 250 or higher
  • exercising fewer than three times a week

How Do I Manage My Type 2 Diabetes?

Healthy eating, physical activity, and getting your blood glucose tested are the most important ways to manage your type 2 diabetes. In addition, you may require oral medication, insulin, or both to control your blood glucose levels.

You will need to take responsibility for your day-to-day care, and keep your blood glucose levels from going too low or too high.

Because people with type 2 diabetes are at high risk for heart disease and stroke, it is also very important for you to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels through healthy eating, physical activity, and use of medications (if needed).

The goal of diabetes management is to keep levels of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol as close to the normal range as safely possible.

You should see a healthcare provider who will help you monitor your diabetes control and help you learn to manage your diabetes.

Often, having a team of providers can improve diabetes care. A team can include:

  • a primary care provider such as an internist, a family practice doctor, or a pediatrician
  • an endocrinologist (a specialist in diabetes care)
  • a dietitian, a nurse, and other health care providers who are certified diabetes educators—experts in providing information about managing diabetes
  • a podiatrist for foot care
  • an ophthalmologist or an optometrist for eye care

What Are the Complications of Diabetes?

Diabetes can affect any part of your body. The good news is that you can prevent most of these problems by keeping your blood glucose (blood sugar) under control, eating healthy, being physical active, working with your health care provider to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control, and getting necessary screening tests. Complications include:

Eye problems: High blood sugars can cause blurred vision, and poorly-controlled diabetes can lead to blindness.

Foot problems: Diabetes can damage both the nerves and the blood vessels to the feet leading to numbness, burning “pins and needles” feeling, poor circulation and possibly amputation.

Dental problems: High blood sugars can cause gum disease.

Kidney problems: High blood sugars, especially if combined with high blood pressure, can cause kidney damage and lead to dialysis.

Nerve problems: High blood sugars can damage nerves in any part of the body.

Heart problems: Diabetes, especially in people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, causes heart disease. Heart disease is the #1 killer of people with diabetes.

Reproductive health problems: Diabetes can cause impotence in men (inability to get an erection) and yeast infections (vaginitis) in women.

Respiratory problems: People with diabetes are more likely to die with pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.

Stomach problems: Poorly-controlled diabetes can cause nerve damage to the stomach leading to nausea, poor digestion, and bloating.

Stroke: People with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to suffer a stroke than people without diabetes.

How Can I Prevent Diabetes?

If you are at high risk, you may be able to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with moderate weight loss and exercise.

Source:

Basics About Diabetes. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention. July 12, 2007. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/faq/basics.htm#7

Diabetes Overview. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. September 2006. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/

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