What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of an illness and accounts for 90-95% of all cases of diabetes. Typically diagnosed in adulthood, the incidence in children is increasing as a result of rising obesity rates. In cases of type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce or cannot effectively process insulin, the hormone responsible for converting food into energy.
The majority of people with type 2 diabetes are able to manage their health with diet, exercise and medication. However, as the disease progresses, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce insulin, meaning that many of those patients need to start taking insulin to manage their diabetes.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
There are several risk factors, including the following:
- Weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
- Age. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases with age.
- Race. Ethnicity plays a part in the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian-Americans and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islander Americans are at higher risk.
- Families. Type 2 diabetes is known to genetically run in families.
- Pre-diabetes. People with pre-diabetes have higher than normal blood glucose levels, but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Left untreated, pre-diabetes often progresses to type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes during pregnancy are seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms and diagnosis
According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, conditions that may be an indication you have type 2 diabetes include the following:
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
If your health care professionals suspect diabetes, they may perform a glucose tolerance test. Diabetes is diagnosed with a blood glucose over 200 mg/dL, or a fasting blood glucose above 126 mg/dL.
Treatment and management of type 2 diabetes
Diet, insulin, and oral medication to lower blood glucose levels are the foundation of diabetes treatment and management. Many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose by following a healthy meal plan and exercise program, losing excess weight, and taking oral medication. Medications may change during the course of the disease. Some people with type 2 diabetes may eventually need insulin to control their blood glucose.
Self-education is the key to living well with diabetes. A support team of diabetes educators, doctors, family and friends can help you or your loved one with diabetes become educated, learn coping skills and solve problems related to diabetes management.
Type 2 diabetes prevention
The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a large prevention study group of people at high risk for diabetes, showed that lifestyle interventions to lose weight and exercise reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent during a 3-year period. Additionally, interventions to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in individuals with pre-diabetes can be achievable and cost-effective, according to the CDC's 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet.
It's important to stress that even if you are at risk, a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be delayed if you adopt changes to your lifestyle that include a healthy diet, exercise program and weight loss.
American Diabetes Association, "Type 2 Diabetes"
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, "National Diabetes Statistics, 2011"