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Type 2 Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a group of diseases that causes too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia). This type of blood sugar is called glucose, and is the main type of sugar found in your blood. It is the main source of energy for the body and comes from the food you eat and is made in the liver and muscles. Your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin helps the blood to carry glucose to the body’s cells. In patients with type 2 diabetes, the insulin doesn’t work correctly (insulin resistance). The glucose then stays in the blood and doesn’t reach the cells.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (also called adult-onset diabetes) is the most common type of diabetes, affecting approximately 27 million patients in the United States. It is important to note that type 2 diabetes doesn’t always present with symptoms. This is called being asymptomatic. Symptoms in symptomatic patients include excessive thirst (polydipsia); frequent urination (polyuria); blurry vision; unusual irritability; tingling or numbness in the hands or feet; fatigue; wounds that don’t heal well; and frequent yeast infections. If left untreated, more severe symptoms can occur, such as autonomic neuropathy (damage to the nerves); kidney disease; diabetic ketoacidosis and increased risk of bone problems, such as the increased risk of bone fractures.

Risk factors

There are several causes and factors that need to be taken into consideration when being assessed for type 2 diabetes. Obesity may be one of the largest factors, as patients who are overweight are at a larger risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This is especially  relevant if the excess fat occurs around the stomach area. Patients who have parents or siblings with type 2 diabetes are also at a greater risk, as are patients who smoke or do not get a lot of exercise. Other risk factors include:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Too much glucose production from the liver
  • Ethnicity -  Patients belonging to the African-American, Native Alaskan, Native American, Hispanic, Latino, Pacific-Islander American populations are at greater risks
  • PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure), even if it’s under control
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Stress
  • Insomnia

Diagnosing diabetes

Diabetes can be easily indicated by blood sugar levels. Normal blood sugar is up to 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Pre-diabetes is diagnosed if the blood sugar levels are from 100-125mg/dL. Diabetes is diagnosed if the blood sugar levels are 126mg/dL or higher. Treatment for this condition includes both pharmaceutical interventions and self-care from the patient. Treatment normally includes weight loss, if the patient is overweight; diet and healthy eating; regular exercise; lifestyle changes to manage stress and medications such as alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, sulfonylureas, meglitinidines, insulin, thiazolidinediones (TZDs) and DPP-4 inhibitors. All theses medication classifications are designed to lower your glucose levels and help manage your diabetes.