Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin, a hormone the pancreas secretes into the bloodstream to turn glucose into energy. For this reason, it is often called insulin-resistant diabetes.
But it may also occur when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. This causes a build up of glucose in the blood, which can have many adverse health effects. A random blood sugar level above 200 mg/dL suggests diabetes.
A life-long condition, type 2 diabetes affects over 400 million people worldwide and has been the target of intensive awareness campaigns. Unlike type 1 diabetes, it can be prevented – so read on.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Doctors generally agree that a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors can trigger type 2 diabetes. However, the specific biological causes of type 2 diabetes are not yet fully understood. What is clear is that in a person suffering from this type of diabetes, glucose – a key source of energy for the body – doesn’t reach the cells.
Instead, it accumulates in the blood, increasing blood sugar beyond normal levels. The pancreas then tries to produce more insulin but is unable to compensate. A closer look at the risk factors can help you better understand this long-term metabolic disorder.
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
People who are overweight and have a large concentration of fat in the abdomen are most likely to develop diabetes. Physical inactivity only increases the risk. Fatty tissue and lack of activity both increase cells’ resistance to insulin.
However, even someone in excellent shape may develop diabetes. A history of type 2 diabetes in the family increases risks. Also, African-Americas, Hispanics, and American Indians are more at risk than Caucasians.
Pre-diabetes is another major risk factor. This condition increases glucose levels in the blood but without surpassing the threshold for diabetes. A blood glucose level between 100 and 125mg/dL indicates pre-diabetes.
The risk of diabetes increases with age, but today, the disease has become increasingly common among children, adolescents, and young adults.
Women may also develop type 2 diabetes after first developing gestational diabetes while pregnant.
Smoking, stress, depression, and not getting enough sleep may also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms
The symptoms develop so slowly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, that diabetes may not be diagnosed for years. Characteristic symptoms include increased thirst and frequent urination – the result of a buildup of sugar in the blood.
Increased hunger is another common symptom. Cells become deprived of energy and want more glucose – that is, food. Weight loss may also occur, as the body will start using other sources of energy. Type 2 diabetes also takes its toll on the immune system, possibly leading to more frequent infections.
Here is a summary of the most common type 2 diabetes symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Areas of dark skin in the neck and armpits
The Long-Term Effects of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes has long-term effects on most of the major organs of the body. The complications it can give rise to are often more unpleasant than diabetes itself. Here are some of the potential complications:
- Nephropathy or kidney damage that can lead to kidney failure, which would require dialysis
- Cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease
- Plaque buildup in the larger vessels ,increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke
- Eye damage, including glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy
- Nerve damage in the legs leading to tingling, numbness, and pain
- Hearing impairment
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Although it is a serious condition, type 2 diabetes can be monitored and managed. A healthy diet, exercise, and a balanced lifestyle can sometimes be enough to keep type 2 diabetes under control without the need for medication. Even with medications or insulin therapy, the treatments available today make this condition manageable.