Type 2 diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body uses food.
Type 2 diabetes used to be called non-insulin-dependent diabetes. The most common type of diabetes, it affects about 15 million Americans. Nine out of ten cases of diabetes are type 2. It usually occurs in people over 45 and overweight, among other factors.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin. Or, your body still makes insulin but can't properly use it. Without enough insulin, your body cannot move blood sugar into the cells. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream. High blood levels of sugar can cause problems.
Medical experts do not know the exact cause of type 2 diabetes. They do know type 2 diabetes runs in families. A person can inherit a tendency to get type 2 diabetes. But it usually takes another factor such as obesity to bring on the disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes often develops slowly. Most people who get it have increased thirst and an increased need to urinate. Many also feel edgy, tired, and sick to their stomach. Some people have an increased appetite, but they lose weight.
Other signs and symptoms are:
- Repeated or hard-to-heal infections of the skin, gums, vagina, or bladder.
- Blurred vision.
- Tingling or loss of feeling in the hands or feet.
- Dry, itchy skin.
What does living with type 2 diabetes mean?
People with diabetes can live happy, healthy lives. The key is to follow a diabetes treatment plan. The goal of this plan is to keep blood-sugar levels as close to normal as possible (good blood-sugar control).
Your first step is to see your health care practitioner. He or she will prescribe a daily treatment plan. The plan should include a healthy diet and regular exercise.
You can often control type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise-- alone. But some people also need medicine -- either diabetes pills or insulin shots. Many people find their diabetes gets better when they follow their treatment plan.
For people who have type 2 diabetes, losing weight is important. Losing weight helps some overweight people to bring their blood sugars into the normal range.
People who have a tendency to get type 2 diabetes can avoid it by losing weight or not becoming overweight. (The health care practitioner may allow some people who are overweight to stop their medication -- if they lose weight and follow a good meal plan.)
Your health care practitioner may also want you to test your blood-sugar levels regularly. Testing will let you know if your diabetes is in control. Be sure to ask how to do these tests.
Diabetes can cause problems with the kidneys, legs and feet, eyes, heart, nerves, and blood flow. If left untreated, these problems can lead to kidney failure, gangrene and amputation, blindness, or stroke. Many experts believe that good blood-sugar control may help prevent these problems.
Diabetes should not be too much trouble if you follow your treatment plan and:
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Control your weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Have regular checkups.
- Do not smoke.