Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition where the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly, or your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. This means your blood glucose (sugar) levels keep rising.
Causes of Diabetes Type 2
We all need insulin to live. It does an essential job. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your body still breaks down carbohydrate from your food and drink and turns it into glucose. The pancreas then responds to this by releasing insulin. But because this insulin can’t work properly, your blood sugar levels keep rising. This means more insulin is released.
For some people with type 2 diabetes this can eventually tire the pancreas out, meaning their body makes less and less insulin. This can lead to even higher blood sugar levels and mean you are at risk of hyperglycaemia.
Type 2 and Insulin
You may not need to use insulin straight away but many people with type 2 diabetes need to use insulin as treatment at some point. If you need to start insulin treatment, remember that this isn’t your fault.
Some people have very high blood sugar levels when they are first diagnosed. Insulin can be used as a short-term treatment to help quickly bring down your blood sugar levels.
Some people may need to take insulin for a particular reason, like during pregnancy, a severe illness, or after surgery. But you may also need to start insulin as a treatment if other medications haven’t helped managed your blood sugar levels or aren’t appropriate for you.
When you start taking insulin, you may notice that you start to put on weight. There are lots of reasons for this, like how much insulin you take, your diet and the type of insulin you’re taking.
It’s still important to keep going to your appointments and manage your condition with healthy lifestyle choices. Staying active and eating a healthy diet will reduce the risk of complications from your diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
When you have type 2 diabetes your body can’t get enough glucose into your cells, so a common symptom is feeling very tired. These include feeling thirsty, going to the toilet a lot and losing weight without trying to.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop more slowly than the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, making the condition harder to spot. That’s why a lot of people don’t get any symptoms, or don’t notice them.
Some people also don’t think the symptoms are important, so don’t ask for help. This means some people can live for up to 10 years with type 2 diabetes before being diagnosed.
There are several factors that can affect your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Because the symptoms are not always obvious, it’s really important to be aware of these risk factors. They can include:
- Your age
- If you have a parent, brother, sister or child with diabetes
- Your ethnicity
- High blood pressure
- Being overweight
How Type 2 diabetes treated?
Although diabetes cannot be cured, it can be treated successfully. If a high blood sugar level is brought down to a normal level, your symptoms will ease and your risk of long-term complications will be much lower.
Keeping your blood sugar (glucose) well controlled is key to reducing your risk of long-term complications such as heart, kidney or eye problems.
Regardless of whether you need medication or which medication you are taking, diet and lifestyle play a key part in preventing long-term complications.
Type 2 diabetes is usually initially treated by following a healthy diet, losing weight if you are overweight, and having regular physical activity. If lifestyle advice does not control your blood glucose levels then medicines are used to help lower these levels. One medicine (usually metformin) is used first but two or even three medicines may be needed.
In addition to controlling your blood glucose, keeping raised blood pressure, cholesterol and other risk factors under control are also important.