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What is Type 2 Diabetes?

There are two main types of diabetes, known as “Type 1 Diabetes” and “Type 2 Diabetes”. These two conditions are generally considered to be 2 different and separate conditions, so it is important to understand the differences between the two.

Important Stuff to Know

90% of people diagnosed with diabetes are of the type 2 strain, and one in three people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. So what is it exactly? It’s a condition in which your pancreas is able to make insulin, however, it is not able to use insulin properly, resulting in high blood glucose levels, which can potentially lead to a wide range of health problems if not treated. This is commonly known as “insulin resistance”. Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes is progressive, meaning that with time and leaving it untreated it will slowly get worse. Our pancreas will deteriorate, leading to insulin deficiency. This will ultimately result in the dependency of insulin injections.

In the past Type 2 diabetes was far more common in older people, but recently, more and more younger people, and sometimes even children, are now being diagnosed with the condition.

What are the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes?

The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are all based on the fact that there is high blood sugar. The symptoms include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Lethargy, fatigue, and drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Increased appetite, hunger

When the blood sugar is stabilised by treatment, these symptoms go away. This is great news as it means we are able to control the situation!

Important: In many people with Type 2 diabetes, even though they have raised blood glucose levels, these levels are not high enough to cause these symptoms. When this happens, the person will have no symptoms, and not even know that they have diabetes!

Type 2 diabetes is also associated with other conditions like high blood pressure and increased cholesterol and blood fats levels.

So why does Type 2 diabetes occur?

Type 2 diabetes is precipitated by a number of lifestyle factors, including:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Poor diet

Important: Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition!

By the time a person is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, they have probably had the condition for 7 – 10 years! In the early stages, there are no symptoms, so it is usually not picked up early.

How is Type 2 diabetes treated?

The primary treatment is to lose weight and increase physical activity. This slows down the progression of the condition, and dramatically improves the health risk of the person with Type 2 diabetes. There are certain medicines that are used:

  • Medicines to reduce insulin resistance (e.g. Metformin)
  • Medicines to promote more insulin secretion from the pancreas
  • Insulin

It is important to know that over time, all people with Type 2 diabetes may require insulin. Your doctor should monitor your blood glucose levels and change your therapy if your medicines are not working well enough.

Myths and Misconceptions – what NOT to believe

Type 2 diabetes only occurs in older, fat people. Not true! Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in older, overweight people, but it is occurring more and more in young people.

You have Type 2 diabetes if you are on tablets, and you have Type 1 diabetes if you are on insulin. Incorrect! Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are two different conditions. They can even occur at the same time in some people.

Insulin resistance causes overweight. Very wrong! Being overweight actually causes insulin resistance.

As long as I avoid sugar I will be fine. No! It is best to follow a healthy diet that is also low in saturated fats and low in salt.

Goals and Recommendations – Be SMART

Lose weight slowly by following a healthy diet plan and increasing your physical activity. Aim to lose a maximum of 1 kg per week.

Know your numbers! Keep track of your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

If your blood glucose is not controlled by your current medicine, ask your doctor about intensifying your therapy. Do not regard insulin as a last resort medicine.

Take Home Messages – What to Remember

Type 2 diabetes is a specific type of diabetes. It is a condition of insulin resistance and progressive lack of insulin.

The primary treatment of Type 2 diabetes is to lose weight, and to maintain a level of physical activity.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition. This means that medical therapy should change over time. Eventually, insulin may be required.

High blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels are equally as important as blood sugar levels. Make sure that these are all controlled.

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