Type 2 Diabetes: What You Need to Know

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When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin as it should. Insulin is a hormone that helps balance the amount of glucose in your blood.

Normally, your body changes most of the food you eat into glucose, which is also referred to as sugar. Glucose is the main source of energy for the cells in your body. After you eat and your food digests, your bloodstream carries the glucose throughout your body. Insulin, which comes from your pancreas, helps your cells absorb the glucose and lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream.

If your body doesn’t make enough insulin or if the insulin doesn’t work like it’s supposed to, the glucose can’t enter your body’s cells. Instead, it stays in your blood. This makes your blood glucose level too high. If this becomes a chronic problem, you can develop serious health conditions.

If you have type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin – or none at all. The exact cause of it is unknown. People usually develop type 1 diabetes as a child, but you can also develop it as an adult. If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin to keep your blood sugar levels normal.

With type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin, but the insulin doesn’t work as it should. Your body becomes resistant to its effects so it must produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal. Over time, your body can’t produce enough insulin and you develop diabetes. If you develop type 2 diabetes, you may not need to take insulin. You may be able to control your glucose levels with diet, medication, or both.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes may run in families or be linked to certain lifestyles. Risk factors include:

  • Age 45 or older
  • Overweight
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Limited physical activity
  • Ethnic background:
    • Native American
    • Asian
    • Hispanic
    • African American
    • Pacific Islander
  • Previous abnormal glucose screening results
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • History of gestational diabetes or a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • History of cardiovascular disease

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

If you are having any these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor:

  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Constant hunger
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Loss of feeling or tingling in feet
  • Infections, such as a yeast infection, that keep coming back

Problems Type 2 Diabetes Can Cause

If you don’t control your blood sugar levels, you could develop severe, long-term health problems such as:

  • Kidney disease, which could lead to high blood pressure or kidney failure
  • Eye problems, which could lead to blindness
  • Nerve and blood vessel damage in your feet that can cause pain, numbness, infection, and potentially the need to have a toe, foot, or leg amputated
  • High cholesterol, which could lead to stroke or heart disease
  • Certain infections, such as bladder or kidney infections, vaginal infections, yeast infections, or skin infections
  • Thyroid problems
  • Problems during pregnancy

To prevent problems during pregnancy if you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before trying to become pregnant to help improve your health and the health of your baby.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

To help prevent getting type 2 diabetes, especially if you have some of the risk factors, it’s important to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise – try for 30 minutes a day during most days of the week. These will help you stay at a normal weight and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure down, which are important for preventing diabetes. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.

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