Type 2 diabetes, sometimes misunderstood as an adult-only condition, is today a disorder that also affects a significant population of the young—children inclusive. This is probably due to lifestyle changes that have made obesity (especially in children) the number one cause of the condition.
What’s type 2 diabetes, and what causes it?
Type 2 diabetes is often brought about by an increase in the body’s blood sugar level—which usually occurs when the cells fail to efficiently utilize the blood sugar (glucose) for energy. They (the cells) essentially become insensitive to insulin, thus triggering the sugar increase.
Typically, the pancreas produces insulin, which aids the transfer of glucose (also known as the blood sugar) from the blood into your body’s cells to keep them energized. However, when the same cells now become resistant to the insulin, your bloodstream then becomes flooded with the excess glucose.
This puts too much pressure on your pancreas to produce more insulin in a bid to regulate your (now too high) blood sugar level, a process that can render this vital organ dysfunctional with time. That is if the same cycle continues.
Causes of type 2 diabetes
These can as well be referred to as the risk factors, and they include:
- Excessive consumption of sugary foods and drinks or generally feeding on an unhealthy diet.
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
- Genetics—meaning, coming from a family with a diabetes history.
- Prediabetes—a condition whereby your blood sugar level surpasses the normal range but not severe enough to cause diabetes. The disease only progresses to become type 2 diabetes when left untreated.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes hardly notice it until a blood test is conducted. Usually, a blood sugar level above 125 during a fast or that above 200 in normal circumstances is a clear sign of diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association warns that the most common symptoms include:
1. Frequent Urination
When your blood sugar levels become too high, your kidney responds by flushing it out to the urine, thereby resulting in excessive urine production—the reason for the constant peeing, which can happen even at night.
Too much urine per bathroom visit is an alarming sign that you might be suffering from type 2 diabetes.
2. Dry mouth or Increased thirst
Again, when the glucose concentration in your blood goes up, your kidneys respond by excreting it to the urine, pulling along even the fluids in your tissues—then causing the dehydration.
But because your body system needs water to function correctly, your brain will relay a signal that you need to take in water to stay hydrated. And more taking of water implies an increased frequency in urination—a cycle that’s bound to continue unless the diabetes condition is managed.
3. Always Hungry
Also known as polyphagia, insatiable hunger is one of the many symptoms you’ll quickly notice when you’ve got diabetes.
With type 2 diabetes, it means your cells have become resistant to insulin—the hormone which aids the absorption of the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells—and hence can no longer take up the glucose for energy purposes.
This, therefore, forces your body to continually call for more fuel, thus the frequent urge to eat.
4. Blurred vision
Too much glucose in the bloodstream may damage the blood vessels, thus causing the blurry vision. Plus, the water loss from the body as a result of the high blood sugar levels may mean even the pulling of the fluids in your eyes—an act that can make it difficult for your eyes to focus.
If left unaddressed, this condition might lead to permanent loss of sight.
5. Extreme fatigue
Your body needs food to stay energized and optimally perform its functions. And that’s why it (your body) breaks down the food into glucose to be used by your cells for energy.
Insulin does the work of ensuring the glucose is transferred from the bloodstream into the cells. However, if the same cells resist the insulin or your pancreas fails to produce sufficient insulin for the glucose transfer process, then your body becomes weak—the reason for the extreme fatigue since your cells can’t take up the glucose.
6. Cuts and wounds healing slowly than before
For you to be diagnosed with type two diabetes, it means your blood glucose levels have been up for quite some time—maybe years. And this can cause damage to the blood vessels, which nourish the nerves plus damaging the nerves themselves.
The result? Poor blood circulation, which then slows down the healing process of wounds—even the smallest cuts. This, obviously, will also impact (negatively) your immune system hence exposing you to infections.
7. Numbness, pain, or a tingling feeling on the feet or hands
Damaged body nerves (as a result of the elevated blood sugar levels) can leave you with a feeling of numbness in your extremities (that is the hands and feet) or sometimes bring about pain or some tingling sensation. A condition commonly referred to as neuropathy.
It (neuropathy) is usually among the early signs of diabetes. However, you can still fail to notice it in the first years of your living with diabetes, considering that it develops quite slowly.
8. Dark patches on the skin, usually under the neck, chin, and armpits
This skin condition is referred to as acanthosis nigricans and often indicates insulin resistance. The affected area may feel velvety—very soft to the touch.
9. Recurrent yeast infections
Yeast is naturally helpful to the body as it helps ensure the proper balance of the neighboring bacteria. However, if overgrown, yeast can cause infections, candidiasis, especially in people living with diabetes.
The fungus (candida) loves sugar, and so when there is too much sugar in the body, it overgrows and colonizes the moist territories of your body such as the gut, throat, a woman’s birth canal, and the mouth; hence causing infections.
Lack of treatment or poor management of the condition is what causes the recurrence of candidiasis, and, of course, the other fungal infections.
10. Unintended weight loss
You may be eating too much but still experiencing weight loss. It could also be a sign of diabetes.
When your body is unable to effectively utilize the insulin in transporting the glucose to the cells, then the excessive sugars accumulate in the blood, thus depriving your cells of the much-needed energy.
And since your body requires’ fuel’ for operation, it’s then forced to burn up the stored fats and muscles for energy, causing you to lose weight even when you least expect it.
How to prevent type 2 diabetes
Although chronic, type 2 diabetes is preventable, manageable, and reversible (in some instances). Below are some of the tips to help you live a diabetes-free life:
1. Exercise regularly
Exercises help make your cells more sensitive to insulin, which therefore implies less insulin required to effectively ensure your blood sugar levels stay in check.
Be sure to choose physical activities that you enjoy, feel comfortable with, and that you can engage in the long-term. Consult your doctor if in doubt.
2. Work on your weight loss goals
This is especially if you’re battling weight-related issues like obesity. Obesity is known to be an inducer of insulin resistance, which is perhaps why it’s the leading cause of diabetes in children.
The excess weight (usually as a result of the visceral fat) around the abdominal area is what fuels inflammation and insulin resistance, thus making you more prone to diabetes. Shedding off the excess weight, therefore, becomes an ideal way to lower your chances of developing the condition.
3. Reduce your intake of sugar and processed carbohydrates
Excessive consumption of sugary foods and processed carbohydrates increases your blood sugar levels, which in turn, elevates your insulin levels making you vulnerable to diabetes.
Therefore, consider replacing such foods with healthy carbs, whole grains, and fiber. For proteins, take fish, lean meat, or poultry. And if it’s a dairy product, then ensure it’s one low in fat.
4. Stay hydrated
Make water your go-to beverage of choice throughout the day and try as much as possible to avoid soda and other sugary drinks. Unlike other drinks, water helps control your blood sugar levels and that of insulin. By doing so, you minimize the risk of diabetes.
5. Move more and sit less
Sitting for more extended periods increases your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes; therefore, consider incorporating some stretching or strolling moments (in between) at least after every 30 minutes.
You can as well follow the below tips to help you manage the condition, that is, if you have already received a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes:
- Incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet, not forgetting the healthy carbohydrates to help manage your blood sugar levels. Examples: Vegetables (non-starchy), fruits (whole), and whole grains (such as quinoa and oats).
- Minimize your intake of processed carbohydrates, animal fats, and sugary food, as this helps you maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat portions at regular intervals, and do that only until you’re full—avoid overeating.
- Stay active by exercising daily, at least for 30 minutes. This not only helps control your blood glucose but is also suitable for your heart.
The Takeaway on Managing Your Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a manageable condition with the right treatment plan, which, of course, starts with early diagnosis.
In fact, keeping a regular track of your blood sugar can help pick up the early stages of diabetes, prediabetes, which is a reversible condition.
Consider visiting a physician for diagnosis if you notice any of the symptoms above, plus, eat healthily, exercise daily, and ensure you stay hydrated. All these, plus the other tips listed above will help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes if you already have it.