According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with diabetes all over the world has more than doubled in a span of just 3 decades. Worldwide statistics show that in 2014, there are already 422 million individuals suffering from this disease, a far greater number than the 108 million identified in 1980. But more alarming is that the majority of the affected population has type 2 diabetes, which is currently incurable. In the United States alone, around 95% of people with diabetes suffer from type 2 diabetes, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
People with type 2 diabetes develop a resistance to insulin or produce insufficient levels of insulin, a hormone that is crucial in regulating the body’s glucose level. If glucose, which is one of the body’s primary source of energy, is not properly metabolized and transported to the cells, vital body functions can be greatly affected, which can lead to serious medical conditions.
Causes and Risk Factors
The body, through the pancreas, naturally produces insulin to regulate the cells’ absorption of glucose so the cells can produce the needed energy to sustain the normal functioning of the systems in the body. When the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or when the body develops a resistance to insulin, thereby increasing the level of sugar present in your bloodstream, this results in type 2 diabetes if not immediately addressed.
There are a number of factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, such as the following:
- Genes. If there is a history of type 2 diabetes in your family, your risk of developing the disease is higher. Scientists have found aspects of the DNA that may affect how the body produces insulin
- Race. Some studies have also shown than some races, including American Indian, Hispanic, and Asian American, are more prone to developing this disease, although the reason behind it is still unclear
- Age. As you get older, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is also known as adult-onset diabetes, also increases. This is perhaps because people tend to have a more inactive lifestyle when they grow older. However, recent studies have shown that type 2 diabetes in the younger population, especially in children, is also on the rise
- Obesity. Obesity has been determined as one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes not only in adults but even in children. Your body can become resistant to insulin if you are overweight, especially if your body tends to store fat in the abdomen or midsection
- Sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity such as regular exercise helps maintain your weight by promoting proper metabolism of glucose in your body and increasing your cells’ sensitivity to insulin. If you are inactive, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is high
- Prediabetes. If your blood sugar level is higher than normal, such as with gestational diabetes, you may eventually develop type 2 diabetes if you leave this condition untreated.
Early Signs and Symptoms
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is common in children and which has readily identifiable symptoms, the symptoms in type 2 diabetes usually develop slowly. It is possible for you to have type 2 diabetes and not exhibit symptoms until a few years later. Here are early signs of the disease you need to look out for.
- Frequent urination. When there is excess glucose in your bloodstream, the body’s automatic response is to flush it out of your body. Your kidneys will filter out excess sugar from your blood and into the urine. This leads to increased production of urine and the need to urinate more often, especially at night. This condition can also bring with it an increased risk of developing urinary tract infection (UTI), especially in women
- Increased thirst. The increased production of urine and the need to urinate more often can cause your body to lose a significant amount of liquid and become dehydration. This leads to a dry mouth and the feeling of being thirsty very often
- Weight loss. Type 2 diabetes forces your body to flush out needed calories and water through your urine. As a result, you may notice a sudden drop in your weight
- Always feeling hungry. Since with type 2 diabetes, the cells do not get the right nutrition for building new tissues, people with this disease constantly feel hungry even if they have just eaten a full meal
- Fatigue. People with type 2 diabetes experience low energy levels and often feel extremely tired. This occurs because the cells do not get enough glucose, which is crucial in the production of energy in the body
- Blurry vision. An elevated sugar level in your bloodstream or a sudden change in your blood sugar level can damage the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, which may strain your eye muscles so it can focus better. Having a blurry vision can be an early sign that you have type 2 diabetes. If it goes untreated, this can lead to a permanent loss of vision
- Slow healing of wounds. Blood circulation is significantly impaired when there is a high level of sugar in the bloodstream. As a result, wounds and even small cuts heal very slowly and might even get infected
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet. Aside from slowly healing wounds, high blood sugar levels can also lead to a tingling sensation, numbness, or even pain in the hands and feet. This is known as diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that can lead to complications if untreated
- Skin discolouration. Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition common in people with type 2 diabetes. It is characterized by patches of dark skin forming on the folds and creases of the body, such as the armpits, groin, or the neck
Since the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes are slow to develop, this killer disease can easily be ignored. However, this disease can lead to serious complications if it goes untreated since it affects major organs such as the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. Below are potential long-term and deadly complications resulting from type 2 diabetes.
- High blood pressure. People with type 2 diabetes also usually have elevated blood pressure. This is a serious health concern that can be a gateway to fatal illnesses such as kidney and cardiovascular diseases and stroke
- Cardiovascular disease. Abnormal blood sugar levels can damage arteries and cause them to clog by increasing the level of bad cholesterol in your veins, which can lead to a deadly heart attack
- Eyesight problems. One of the early signs of type 2 diabetes is eyesight problems. If they go untreated, you increase your risk of developing more severe eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and even permanent blindness
- Amputations. Damage to nerves from elevated blood sugar levels can cause cuts and wounds to become infected, especially in the foot or leg. Unfortunately, severe damage might mean the foot or leg needs to be amputated
- Sleep apnea. People with type 2 diabetes are also found to have obstructive sleep apnea. Studies have shown obesity as a common factor in both conditions
Prevention and Treatment
While there is still no cure for type 2 diabetes, making lifestyle changes can go a long way in managing the disease or stopping its progression if you are already diagnosed with the disease. Or if you want to lower your risk of developing the disease, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a good way of keeping the disease at bay, even if you have a history of diabetes in your family.
- Studies have shown that the following healthy lifestyle choices are effective in managing the disease or lowering your risks of getting it
- Have a healthy diet. Consume generous servings of food that are high in fiber and essential nutrients, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grain. Avoid fatty, processed, and sugary food. If you can, prepare your own meal so you know what’s in it
- Exercise regularly. Staying active is a surefire way to keep your body in tip-top shape and avoid developing insulin resistance. You don’t have to go to the gym and perform high-intensity exercises. Brisk walking daily, swimming, or a bike ride can do wonders to your body if you do it regularly. The key is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle
- If your weight is alarmingly nearing obesity or if you’re already diagnosed as being obese, losing weight is critical if you want to avoid diabetes. Experts say losing as little as 10% of your body weight can already cut your risk of getting diabetes in half
- Medication. If your blood sugar level remains high, your doctor may recommend that you take certain medications to regulate it, such as the following:
- Metformin is generally the first medication doctors give patients to help manage type 2 diabetes. It aids the body in responding better to insulin and lowers the amount of glucose produced in your liver so your body can properly adjust to normal circulation of glucose in your bloodstream
- Sulfonylureas and meglitinides help your body produce more insulin if your pancreas is not producing enough
Type 2 diabetes is a life-changing disease that affects millions of individuals all over the world, and yearly the number grows. But while no cure has yet been discovered to completely treat the disease, there are many programs and treatments that help people with type 2 diabetes live long and productive lives, and there are many proven ways of keeping the disease at bay. Awareness of the risk factors and making healthy life choices is key. And consult your doctor regularly, because it is true what they say—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Susan Boyle was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and remove sugar from her diet. She lost a lot of weight.
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