Everything you need to know about type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people around the world. It can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, and it is important to understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of this condition so that it can be managed effectively.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder resulting from insufficient insulin production or its inefficient use in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body use glucose from the foods we eat. If the body does not have enough insulin or is not able to use it properly, glucose builds up in the bloodstream resulting in elevated blood glucose levels. This condition carries serious long-term risks, including heart disease, strokes, kidney issues, nerve damage, and vision problems. 

There are several risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including:

  • Age (people over the age of 45 are at an increased risk)
  • Family history
  • Ethnicity
  • Lifestyle (inactive, or being overweight)

Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, including polycystic ovary syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and conditions that require the use of steroids. People who have had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Common symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, weight loss, blurry vision and slow healing sores or cuts. Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include frequent infections, dry and itchy skin, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Diagnosing type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed through various tests, including fasting blood glucose, oral glucose tolerance, or haemoglobin A1C tests, which all measure blood glucose levels and can help diagnose type 2 diabetes. It’s a progressive condition, so regular monitoring and lifestyle changes are crucial for managing the condition. 

“My main symptom of type 2 diabetes was that I was tired throughout the day and felt exhausted pretty much all of the time.”

Chris, East Yorkshire

Treating and managing type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes treatment involves lifestyle changes such as weight loss, diet interventions (like total diet replacement or low-carb) and regular physical activity to help control blood glucose levels. Medications like insulin, metformin, or sulfonylureas may be prescribed to lower blood glucose levels, but ensure you discuss all options with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.

Some people with type 2 diabetes will monitor their blood glucose levels regularly and others will get their HbA1c tested 1-2 times a year. Other lifestyle changes such as monitoring carbohydrates intake, watching portion sizes, quitting smoking, managing stress levels, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep is important. If left untreated or poorly managed, type 2 diabetes can lead to several serious health complications. These include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, and amputation. It is therefore important to take all necessary steps to manage type 2 diabetes to avoid these serious complications.

Preventing type 2 diabetes

While type 2 diabetes cannot be prevented completely, you can reduce the risk through:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Regular exercise
  • No smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
  • Getting regular routine screenings

Living with type 2 diabetes

Living with type 2 diabetes can be difficult at times, but there are many things you can do to manage the condition. It is important to stay informed about the condition and to speak with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan. Support groups and online resources can also provide helpful information and emotional support.  Lifestyle changes such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and medication adherence are key. With the right treatment plan and lifestyle changes, you can lead a healthy and active life with type 2 diabetes.