What is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus?

Type 2 diabetes, or type 2 diabetes mellitus, is a chronic condition that almost always starts in adulthood (although cases in younger people are on the rise). It occurs much more commonly than type 1 diabetes, and generally means that sufferers have higher than normal levels of sugar in their blood and the associated problems that come with that.

How It Works

What goes wrong in the body to cause type 2 diabetes?

After we eat food, the body begins the digestive process and breaks the food down into its basic components. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, mainly glucose, which provides fuel for the body’s cells by leaving the bloodstream and entering the cells.

The blood contains insulin, a hormone that signals to the cells to take up glucose from the blood. Insulin is produced by an organ called the pancreas, which produces more insulin as required – such as after we eat a meal. When the body can’t recognize insulin, the glucose in the blood can’t be taken into the cells as effectively, and glucose starts to build up in the blood. This causes the pancreas to produce even more insulin, which the body still can’t recognize, and that worsens the insulin resistance problem and exhausts the pancreas. This leads to sustained high levels of sugar in the blood.

Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Early signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Feeling constantly hungry and thirsty
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive urination
  • Increased vulnerability to infections, especially yeast infections
  • Slow healing of wounds

A more serious symptom of type 2 diabetes is known as a hyperosmolar syndrome, a life-threatening form of dehydration. For some people, this condition, which causes weakness, nausea, and even seizures, is the first sign they have diabetes.

Treatment

For many people with type 2 diabetes, their first step on a treatment plan is to reduce their weight through diet and exercise. Obesity is one of the primary risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. A good diet is usually low in saturated fats, low in cholesterol, low in calories, and well-balanced with oily fish, fruits, vegetables, and wholegrain foods. Refined carbohydrates and sugar should be avoided.

Many people can control their type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone, but others will need medications or insulin therapy.

Treatment of type 2 diabetes can cause the blood sugar to fall too low – a condition causing hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include sweating, dizziness, hunger, confusion, and even loss of consciousness if not corrected quickly by eating something that will raise the blood sugar levels.

Living With Type 2 Diabetes

For many people, diabetes is a chronic and lifelong illness. However, some people with type 2 diabetes can sometimes restore their blood sugar levels to normal just by eating a healthy diet, regularly exercising, and losing weight. This is called ‘remission.’

Over time, even for people in remission and aging, other illnesses or medications, can cause insulin resistance to increase, and symptoms may recur. In these cases, you should seek additional treatment for diabetes.

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