Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Medications & Treatment
Commonly asked questions about Type 2 diabetes:
- What is Type 2 diabetes?
- Type 2 diabetes risk factors
- Type 2 diabetes causes
- Type 2 diabetes complications
- Type 2 diabetes treatments
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Previously referred to as adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, type 2 diabetes causes your body to either build up a resistance to insulin or not produce enough insulin needed to metabolized glucose.
Glucose (sugar) is metabolized by the body to serve as a major energy source. Insulin allows glucose to enter cells, powering them and eliminating the risk of reaching a dangerous blood sugar level. However, when the body is resistant to insulin or does not produce insulin, a wide variety of health risks may affect the body.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is not believed to be entirely rooted in genetics. Rather, it is the lifestyle choices pursued by borderline diabetics that often determine if type 2 diabetes will develop and with what severity.
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most prominent diseases effecting Americans, with over 29 million Americans suffering from diabetes. Those 29 million Americans constitute nearly 9.3% of the American population with the numbers rising at a rate of 1.4 million Americans every year.
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
Who Is At Risk Of Getting Type 2 Diabetes?
Those who pursue generally unhealthy lifestyle practices are at the greatest risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, there are also factors that a potential type 2 diabetes victim may be unable to control.
These risk factors that cannot be controlled include genetics, age, and race. Those with family members who have suffered from diabetes experience a higher risk rate of contracting type 2 diabetes due to genetic similarity. Additionally, those who are 45 years or older are more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes as are Hispanic, Black, Native American, and Asian Americans.
In addition to uncontrolled risk factors, there are several risk factors that a person has the ability to control. These include the following:
- Lack Of Physical Activity
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Low “Good” Cholesterol Level
- Gestational Diabetes
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes?
In knowing the major risk factors of type 2 diabetes development, those who fear they may be at risk of developing the disease can pursue a variety of steps to reduce their risk.
These steps include increasing the amount of physical activity to lose weight and lower blood sugar levels. Additionally, making major adjustments to your diet by increasing intake of fiber, whole grain, and food rich in vitamins and minerals can have major positive effects.
People living healthier lifestyles are at an exceptionally lower risk of contracting type 2 diabetes than those who may be pursuing unhealthy lifestyle choices. It is important that all healthy steps are pursued in the appropriate moderation with necessary medical advice received.
Type 2 Diabetes Causes
How Do I Get Type 2 Diabetes?
Because type 2 diabetes is caused primarily because of the lifestyle of a person, it is slow to develop as the health of the afflicted deteriorates. This deterioration can come in the form of weight increase or continued obesity. Insulin effectiveness is affected by an increased level of fat in the body: the more fat, the less the body can effectively utilize its insulin.
As was detailed when discussing type 2 diabetes risk factors, decreased exercise, unhealthy diet, and being overweight can act as direct causes of disease development. While healthy individuals can contract the disease due to genetic history, it is far less common in reported type 2 diabetes cases.
What Are Medications That Cause Type 2 Diabetes?
In addition to genetics and unhealthy lifestyle factors, there are several prescription drugs that reportedly cause type 2 diabetes. These drugs can include the following:
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton pump inhibitors, the drug class which includes Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Aciphex, Dexilant, Protonix, and Zegerid, are the most popular drugs prescribed to treat the effects of acid reflux disease. These drugs are sold to over 15 million Americans every year and recent studies have indicated that prolonged use of them can directly cause type 2 diabetes.
Lipitor (atorvastatin) is one of the best-selling drugs of all time with over $125 billion in sales since it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996. The drug was designed to reduce LDL cholesterol levels but recent studies and FDA warnings have indicated that extended use of the drug may cause type 2 diabetes. The disease can develop as the drug sometimes raises blood sugar levels to a dangerous, type 2 diabetes causing level.
How Are Insulin And Glucose Effected In Type 2 Diabetes?
Insulin is produced by beta cells within the pancreas to promote the introduction of glucose (sugar) into the cells of the body. When working properly, the produced insulin will work to decrease blood sugar levels as cells absorb the glucose necessary to fuel itself to function properly.
As type 2 diabetes develops, there is either a shortage of insulin production in the body or the body has built a resistance to the hormones effects. In the event of a shortage, there is not enough of the hormone in the body to promote the introduction of glucose to the body’s cells. When a resistance is built, the standard amount of insulin produced by the body is not enough to serve the needs of glucose and cells.
As sugar is unable to enter cells, the blood sugar level of the individual affected will steadily rise – known as hyperglycemia. This massive buildup can cause arteries to suffer severe damage as they have not developed a tolerance for the high level of sugar they are being subjected to.
Additionally, the inability to tap into their primary source of energy will lead to cells failing in their ability to perform proper functions.
Type 2 Diabetes Complications
In addition to the disease itself being slow to develop, the complications associated with it are slow to develop as well. At times, the complications are so slow to develop that they may not be noticeable for an extended period of time, at which point the complication may develop into a serious health risk.
If the type 2 diabetes developed is the form in which insulin is not adequately produced, you will be able to survive with low insulin levels for a short period. However, eventually your levels will decrease to a low enough point that complications and need for treatment will become evident.
Some of the complications or symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:
Increase Thirst Causing Frequent Urination
A common side effect associated with an increase in glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream is the dehydration of tissues, including muscles. As the sugar density increases, the body will draw fluid from tissues in an attempt to counteract the blood-sugar density.
With body tissue experiencing a constant state of dehydration, the afflicted will feel a need to drink an excessive amount of fluid to quell their feelings of dehydration. This increase in fluid consumption will cause those afflicted with type 2 diabetes to urinate far more often than is typical. In addition to fluid consumption, the body’s attempt to dispel excess glucose will also serve to increase urination frequency.
While increase glucose levels in the bloodstream will cause a diabetic to suffer from symptoms of dehydration, the inability for muscles to acquire energy will lead to an increased appetite. With no insulin available to promote cell acquisition of glucose, someone with type 2 diabetes may always feel as though they have not consumed enough food to create energy.
If the disease develops without insulin therapy, muscles will continue to send messages throughout the body indicating a need for energy that necessitates eating.
While common sense would suggest that an increased appetite would lead to immense weight gain, the body’s inability to metabolize glucose can lead to significant weight loss. This is because the body will no longer use glucose as a primary source of energy, instead using fuels stored in muscle and fat.
With other fuel sources being used instead of glucose, the body will rid itself of glucose calories through urination.
Fatigue is a major complication associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and can be identified by a number of its symptoms, including:
- Lack Of, Or No Energy
- Difficult To Carry Out Tasks
- Mental Fatigue (Down Mood)
These symptoms of fatigue are triggered as the body is unable to call upon glucose to power itself and its cells. With the body forced to use alternative fuel methods to acquire the necessary energy, it will experience a major reduction in energy level.
Additionally, those on diabetes medication may still suffer from fatigue if their medications consistently lower their blood glucose levels. Taking a blood test will help determine what the cause of your fatigue is, allowing you to pursue the necessary measures to combat the symptom.
Vision Loss Or Eye Damage
If diabetes is not properly treated or controlled, the disease can cause major damage to the eyes of the afflicted individual. These complications include:
Swelling Of The Eye Lens
If blood sugar levels are too high in the body for an extended period of time, the body will draw fluid into the eye lens in an attempt to dilute the sugar levels. However, this increased level of fluids will cause the lens to swell which can cause blurred vision.
Damaged Blood Vessels
In the event that a high blood sugar level is maintained for years, the walls of blood vessels running through the retina may become weak to such an extent that they begin to bulge. These bulges develop into microaneursyms.
These microaneurysms will allow exudate to seep into the retina, causing swelling, and making it exceptionally hard to see. If left untreated for long enough, this condition could become permanent so it is important to seek help when first developments are discovered.
Retinopathy is a major concern for sufferers of type 2 diabetes as leaking blood can cause hemorrhaging in the retina. Hemorrhaging from weak blood vessels can get worse if blockage occurs in vessels that supply the retina with blood.
As the body will try to heal itself, it will be unable to construct repairs sufficient enough to halt the bleeding or repair the retina. In fact, these repairs may be so weak that it causes more damage in the form of additional hemorrhaging.
Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition in which dark patches or streaks around skin creases begin to appear. It is commonly found in children suffering from elevated blood insulin levels – who are frequent sufferers of diabetes.
The condition can develop slowly with skin patches changing colors over the course of months or years but in some cases rapidly. Defeating this condition shares similar methods as what can be done to treat type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes Treatments
How Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Treated?
While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, there are several well-known treatment methods a diabetic can use to minimize their risk of suffering from further negative complications. These treatment methods include insulin therapy, prescription drugs, and healthy lifestyle changes.
These steps may not be able to cure the disease but pursuing them to the best of you ability will help to secure a healthy life for the foreseeable future.
Those suffering from type 2 diabetes have a decision to make when the possibility of insulin therapy is brought to their attention. The options they face include starting insulin therapy once blood sugar first goes out of control or when the diabetes has progressed to a point where the pancreas is completely unable to produce insulin.
Insulin therapy is the primary method of treatment used on diabetic patients by medical professionals. The therapy is administered through a pump or self-injection in which long and short term variations of insulin are administered to the body depending on blood sugar level, time of day, and meal contents.
Additional Type 2 Diabetes Medications
Although Insulin is very effective at maintaining a healthy blood sugar level, there are other drugs that are commonly prescribed by doctors to help their patients handle the effects of type 2 diabetes.
Actos (pioglitazone) works by decreasing insulin resistance while also decreasing the glucose levels in a patients bloodstream. The drug has been frequently prescribed to assist in controlling blood sugar levels since it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999.
Byetta (exenatide) is a glucagonlike peptide-1 receptor agonist, more commonly referred to as a GLP-1, that is injected twice daily to help control the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. The drug now comes in a single daily injection form and is designed to combine with diet and exercise to control blood sugar levels.
Januvia & Janumet
Januvia and Janumet are sitagliptin drugs categorized as selective dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors, also known as DPP-4 inhibitors. The drugs were developed to stimulate the creation of insulin and can be taken on conjunction with other type 2 diabetes drugs including Byetta.
Onlgyza (saxagliptin) was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 to help control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. However, the drug can only be used in those who do not suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis. With it being one of the few drugs to not carry weight gain as a possible side effect, it has become exceptionally popular.
Invokana (Invokamet) is a SGLT2 inhibitor used to increase glycemic control in type 2 diabetics while also working to lower blood sugar levels. The drug was developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2013.
SGLT2 inhibitors work by preventing high blood sugar by helping the patient’s kidneys remove excess sugar through their urine.
In May 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning the drug has been linked to cases of ketoacidosis, a serious condition where there is too much acid in the blood.
Complications of diabetic ketoacidosis include difficulty breathing, nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion and unusual fatigue or sleepiness. The condition can lead to diabetic coma and/or death.
When diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it is important that an individual takes steps to alter their lifestyle in a healthy and safe way. In undergoing some of the following lifestyle changes while remaining diligent in keeping up with necessary medications, type 2 diabetics should be able to live long, exceptionally standard lives.
Type 2 Diabetes Diet
Oftentimes, adjusting your diet can be a key factor in controlling your blood sugar levels as the type of foods consumed have a direct result in how much glucose enters the bloodstream. Dietary needs are different for all sufferers depending on age, gender, physical activity, and stage of diabetes development.
It is recommended that while type 2 diabetics increase the amounts of fruits, vegetables, starchy foods, and proteins consumed, intake of forms of dairy, high fat, high sugar, and salt should be significantly reduced.
In addition to a healthy diet, increasing physical activity is important as it can work to reduce fat and decrease the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Excessive fat prevents insulin from taking its intended effect, especially fat around the waist area.
While muscles may not be able to process glucose without insulin, this fact changes during exercise. When exercising, muscles can metabolize glucose without insulin. By regularly exercising, a type 2 diabetic can create a period in which their glucose is being metabolized by muscles and other tissues as it would be in non-diabetics.
Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels
The aforementioned lifestyle changes are important, but in order for them to be effective a type 2 diabetic must keep accurate records of their blood sugar levels throughout the day. Without monitoring blood sugar level fluctuations the effects of diet, medication, and exercise will not be fully known and the afflicted and their medical team will not be able to effectively combat the disease.
Monitoring often includes checking blood sugar levels multiple times per day, especially before meals, exercise, and bed. Doing so will allow a type 2 diabetic to continue pursing treatment methods that work while knowing what methods are detrimental.