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Diabetes Information

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes with nearly 95% of diabetic cases being diagnosed as such.   At least 20 million adults have type 2 diabetes with millions more unknowingly harboring prediabetic symptoms.

The muscle, liver, and fat cells in a type 2 diabetic's body are unable to use insulin produced by the pancreas properly.  This is called insulin resistance.  The hormone insulin helps cells use glucose, derived from food intake and the liver, for energy. 

As the pancreas becomes unable to supply an adequate amount of insulin, glucose builds up in the blood stream while the cells are starved for energy.  High amounts of  glucose damage nerves and blood vessels which leads to serious diabetes complications throughout the body.

Also known as adult-onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes can occur in children and teens.  In recent years, type 2 diabetes has been on the rise among the young as children have succumbed to the obesity and sedentary lifestyle problems of adults.

Who's at Risk?

Researchers believe heredity plays a strong part in type 2 diabetes.  People having a parent or sibling with the disease are 10-15% more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes.  Other factors include:

   Ethnicity (persons of African-American, Asian-American, American Indian, Latino, and Pacific Islander descent);

   Overweight (body mass index of 25 or more);

   History of gestational diabetes or having given birth to a baby over 9 lbs;

   High blood pressure or cholesterol;

   Sedentary lifestyle;

   Over age 65;

   Diagnosed as prediabetic (blood glucose level higher than normal).

What are the Signs?

Type 2 diabetes progresses gradually; many people are diagnosed once they experience complications from the disease such as blurred vision or foot pain.  There are several symptoms of type 2 diabetes. While these signs could also indicate other illnesses, it is advisable to first get tested for diabetes.

   excessive hunger or thirst

   frequent urination

   slow healing wounds

   dry skin

   rapid breathing

   blurred vision

   mood swings, depression

   unexplained weight loss

   headaches

   tingling in extremities

   frequent infections (urinary, yeast, skin)

   high blood pressure

Three plasma blood glucose tests are available for diagnosing type 2 diabetes.  The most commonly used test (fasting plasma glucose) requires the patient to fast for 8 hours after which a blood sample is taken.  In another test, blood is taken at any time during the day (random plasma glucose).  The oral glucose tolerance test requires a patient to drink 75 grams of glucose; blood is then drawn in intervals up to 3 hours afterward.

Health Risks

Type 2 diabetes can cause serious harm to all parts of the body including the cardiovascular system.  Heart disease is one of the leading complications of type 2 diabetes.  Other diabetes-related health problems include:

   nerve damage;

   vision problems (glaucoma, cataracts, blindness);

   kidney disease;

   sexual dysfunction;

   dry, cracked skin (susceptible to infection);

   gum disease.

Treatment Options

A healthy diet and regular exercise will help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.  It is also important to maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and, to avoid excessive weight gain.

Once a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he may need medications to help control his condition.  Oral medications are often prescribed when diet and exercise alone can't keep blood sugars in check.

Sometimes a type 2 diabetic will need insulin injections to control glucose levels.  Insulin  is injected using a syringe or infused with an insulin pump.  Patients must regularly check their glucose levels by using a self-monitoring blood glucose device.

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