Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Treatments, and Long-Term Outlook

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which your cells do not respond to insulin as they should, causing an increase in blood sugar levels. There is no cure, but with diligent management, you can lead a healthy life. Read on to learn more.

8 minute read

Last Updated July 15, 2020

Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Treatments, and Long-Term Outlook

Like type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition where blood sugar levels are very high. The difference between the two types is the cause. 

Insulin is required to move the glucose to your cells for energy usage, but in type 2 diabetes, your cells do not respond to insulin as they should. With type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes leads to dangerously high blood sugar levels and serious health complications.

Type 2 Diabetes Causes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, your body can still produce insulin, but your body is resistant to this hormone and unable to use it efficiently. As a result, your pancreas works harder to make more insulin, which over time, damages your pancreas. 

In many cases, without treatment and intervention, the pancreas will stop producing insulin completely, and glucose will continue to build up in your blood. Doctors believe that a genetic predisposition can cause these events to occur. Another cause could be cell dysfunction within the pancreas and liver regarding glucose production. 

There is also a strong link between obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes, as it has been found to increase insulin resistance. It is more likely that a combination of these facts as well as several other risk factors that contribute to the development of the condition.

Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms

Your body cannot use insulin as effectively as it should with type 2 diabetes, so your body needs to rely on other sources of energy. These sources come from your tissues, muscles, and organs, and this causes a reaction that develops slowly over time.

A lack of energy
♦ Constant hunger
Weight loss
♦ Excessive thirst
♦ Dry mouth
♦ Itchy skin
♦ Blurry vision
Frequent urination

The symptoms will get more severe as the condition progresses. If your condition continues untreated you may start to notice other symptoms such as yeast infections, slow-healing sores, foot pain, dark patches on your skin, or feelings of numbness in your extremities (neuropathy).

Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis

If you notice any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, you need to see your doctor for testing right away. Diagnostic testing is the only way to confirm a diagnosis and will include any of the following:

♦ Hemoglobin A1C test: This measures average blood sugar levels for the previous few months, and there is no need to fast for this.

♦ Fasting plasma glucose test: This measures how much glucose is in your plasma and requires an 8-hour fast beforehand. 

♦ Oral glucose tolerance test: Your blood is drawn three times at specific intervals to evaluate how your body reacts to drinking a glucose drink.

Type 2 Diabetes Diet

The diet you choose is important for your blood glucose levels, as well as your heart. Heart disease is linked to diabetes, but with a balanced diet, you can work to protect yourself from both. 

The best diet for type 2 diabetes will involve eating meals and snacks according to a schedule, not overeating, and choosing foods that are high in nutrients and low in empty calories. 

The best foods to add to your diet are:

♦ Whole fruits 
Non-starchy vegetables
♦ Legumes
♦ Whole grains
♦ Fresh fish
♦ Avocados 

The foods you need to avoid are:

♦ Processed meats
♦ Pasta
♦ Shellfish
♦ Foods heavy in saturated fats
♦ Processed snacks
♦ Sugary drinks
♦ High-fat dairy products

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

The most important part of effective treatment is monitoring your blood glucose levels regularly. You will only need to use insulin if your body is unable to make its own, and medications are an additional treatment option when dietary and lifestyle changes do not work. 

Some of the medications you may need include:

♦ Metformin, which lowers blood glucose levels and improves the body’s response to insulin

♦ Glucagon-like peptides, which slow digestion and improve blood sugar levels

♦ Thiazolidinediones, which increase insulin sensitivity

♦ Sulfonylureas, which helps your body make more insulin

If your body reaches a point where you can no longer make insulin, then you will need insulin therapy. This involves regular injections either at night or regularly throughout the day. If you have blood pressure or cholesterol problems, you need to speak with your doctor before taking any diabetes medications.

Natural Treatments for Type 2 Diabetes

Dietary changes are the most effective way to control blood glucose levels and reduce symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Because obesity is strongly linked to type 2 diabetes, losing weight can make it easier for your body to process blood glucose and prevent more serious complications. Regular exercise not only helps you lose weight but can also help to reduce symptoms associated with diabetes and boost overall health. 

In addition to exercise and losing weight, there are several natural supplements that have been found to support healthy blood glucose levels and prove effective in helping to treat type 2 diabetes. 

♦ ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) has been shown to improve insulin resistance

Chromium supplements reduce insulin resistance

♦ Coenzyme Q10 is used for heart health, but it can also help regulate blood glucose levels 

♦ Omega-3 fatty acids can work to reduce insulin resistance

Type 2 Diabetes Statistics

♦ One in four people have diabetes and do not realize it.

♦ Type 2 diabetes most often develops after the age of 45, but it can be diagnosed at any age.

♦ Of the 30 million Americans that have diabetes, 90 percent have type 2 diabetes.

♦ African American and Hispanic individuals are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as compared to Caucasian individuals. 

♦ Diabetes triples the risk of stroke and heart attack in adults.

♦ Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

Type 2 Diabetes and Children

Type 2 diabetes in children is increasingly becoming more of a problem with studies reporting that the incidences of type 2 diabetes in children have increased rapidly to 5,000 cases per year. 

Being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle, and eating a poor diet can significantly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in children. The symptoms are the same for children as they are for adults, and without treatment, children face the same serious health complications. 

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that you will have for life once diagnosed. There are numerous ways to prevent diabetes, especially if you have prediabetes. 

With a healthy diet, weight loss, and regular physical activity, you can prevent diabetes from developing. If you’ve already been diagnosed, these same treatments can help keep symptoms under control. 

Serious complications can occur if left untreated, such as neuropathy, vision impairment, and cardiovascular disease, so the best outcome relies on you monitoring and controlling your blood sugar levels.

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