March 30, 2022
4 min. read

Type 2 Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Medly

Diabetes is a chronic, long-term condition which affects how your body turns food into energy. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, occurring when your body doesn’t use insulin properly. If you’ve just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or have been managing your condition for a while, you’re not alone—in fact, more than 37 million Americans have diabetes. 

No matter where you are in your diabetes journey, there are some important things to know about your condition and treatment. While some people can manage their condition with diet and exercise, others may need medication or insulin as part of their treatment. To learn more about your condition and how to manage it, read our latest blog post below. 

What is type 2 diabetes? 

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar, also known as glucose, which is an important source of fuel for the body. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps cells take in glucose to be used for energy, and is essential for regulating blood sugar. But in type 2 diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin, or doesn’t produce enough insulin to be effective. While this condition has historically been referred to as adult-onset diabetes, the rise in childhood obesity has resulted in a noticeable number of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

What are the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes? 

Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes normally develop slowly over time. When they are present, signs and symptoms may include: 

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck

How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed? 

Type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed using something called a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This blood test measures your average blood sugar over the past two to three months. Your provider will interpret the results as follows: 

  • Below 5.7% is normal 
  • 5.7% to 6.4% is diagnosed as prediabetes 
  • 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes 

How is type 2 diabetes treated? 

Treating type 2 diabetes involves a combination of diet, exercise, weight loss, medication, and blood sugar monitoring. 

Blood sugar monitoring 

Monitoring your blood sugar regularly is an essential part of treating type II diabetes. Your doctor can tell you how frequently you’ll need to check and record your blood sugar, but if you’re on insulin, you’ll need to check blood sugar levels at least daily. 

Diet 

For diabetics, managing your diet can help keep your heart healthy and your blood glucose levels in a safe range. While there is no specific diabetes diet, it’s a good idea to eat three meals a day at regular intervals, and choose foods that are high in nutrients and low in empty calories. Consume fewer calories, fewer refined carbohydrates (especially sweets), and fewer foods containing saturated fats. Instead, add vegetables, fruits, and foods with fiber to your diet. 

Exercise 

Try to get 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. Avoid inactive activities, like watching TV, and if you are sitting, make sure to get up and move every 30 minutes. 

Maintain a healthy weight

For type II diabetics who are overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of their body weight can make a difference in blood sugar, though a sustained weight loss of 7 percent or more of your initial weight is ideal. Consider meeting with a dietician or nutritionist to create a meal plan you’ll be excited to try. 

Medications 

If you’re not able to treat your blood sugar with diet and exercise, your doctor may prescribe diabetes medications that help lower insulin levels or insulin therapy. Drug treatments for diabetes include: 

  • Diabetes medications. Metformin is the preferred treatment for those with type II diabetes, lowers blood glucose levels and improves how your body responds to insulin. Other helpful medications include sulfonylureas, meglitinides, thiazolidinediones, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, and sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors. Each of these medications can cause different side effects, so you’ll want to work with your doctor to find the right treatment combination.   
  • Insulin therapy. If your body can’t make enough insulin, insulin therapy can help keep your blood sugar levels within an acceptable range. 
  • Other medications. Many diabetics also experience issues with their blood pressure and cholesterol, for which your doctor may write additional prescriptions.

If you or someone you love is struggling with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to know how to manage your condition. Work with your provider to establish a diet and exercise plan that works for you, and discuss the possibility of using medication to manage your blood sugar as well. 

Sources 

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