About 90 to 95 percent of Americans with diabetes have the type 2 form of the disease. In type 2 diabetes, the body cannot use its own insulin effectively, a condition known as insulin resistance. Over time, the body’s insulin output also drops.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include age (risk increases with age), obesity (about 80 percent of individuals with type 2 diabetes are overweight), family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity and ethnic background (African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans are at higher risk).
Although risk increases with age, people ages 6 to 19 years old are increasingly being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, especially among African-American, Mexican-American and Pacific Islander populations. Obesity is a major risk factor for this age group.
Type 2 diabetes can affect major organs and lead to serious health problems, including heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, vision impairment and other issues.
A common myth about type 2 diabetes is that it can be “reversed.” Type 2 diabetes is a genetic condition or pre-disposition that doesn’t change with treatment. If a type 2 diabetes patient’s elevated blood sugar levels return to normal in response to treatment (typically dietary changes, exercise and/or medication), it means the treatment is effective. It doesn’t mean the underlying genetic condition has gone away.
Type 2 diabetes usually doesn’t develop as rapidly as type 1. While some individuals have no symptoms, symptoms may include frequent urination, increased thirst and/or hunger, fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision and/or slow healing of wounds or sores.
Treatment for type 2 diabetes typically includes:
Lifestyle changes: Type 2 diabetes treatment begins with eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and losing any extra weight. If these lifestyle changes cannot control blood sugar, patients may also need medication or insulin replacement therapy.
Medication: Medication may be used to decrease insulin resistance, slow the digestion of food or increase insulin levels in the bloodstream. Non-insulin injected medications for type 2 diabetes essentially decrease blood glucose levels after eating. Insulin therapy can be used to increase insulin circulating in the bloodstream. Sometimes, managing type 2 diabetes requires multiple medications in addition to the necessary lifestyle changes.
Blood Sugar Monitoring: Regular blood sugar monitoring is essential, because even if a patient does not feel symptoms, blood sugar may be at unhealthy levels, putting the patient at risk for complications. A physician typically provides the patient with a glucometer – a device that can determine blood glucose levels from just a tiny drop of blood. Patients typically also see their doctors for regular blood tests that show average blood glucose levels for the most recent two to three months.