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Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that happens when your body can't use insulin the right way. Over time, your pancreas can't make enough insulin. It often affects people who are overweight and not physically active.

Insulin helps sugar (glucose) move from the blood into the body's cells, where it can be used for energy or stored. Without insulin, sugar can't get into the cells, and your blood sugar gets too high. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to problems with your eyes, heart, blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys.

You may be able to manage diabetes by eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise. But some people need medicines to help control their blood sugar levels.

  • Symptoms

    What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

    Some people who have type 2 diabetes may not have any symptoms early on. You may have the disease for many years before you have symptoms of high blood sugar.

    Symptoms of high blood sugar may include:

    • Feeling thirsty all the time.
    • Needing to urinate often.
    • Feeling hungrier than usual.
    • Losing weight for no clear reason.
    • Feeling tired all the time.
    • Being moody or tense.
    • Having infections, cuts, and bruises that heal slowly.

    The higher your blood sugar rises, the more likely you are to have symptoms. High blood sugar can also make you dehydrated if you're not drinking enough liquids. This can make you feel dizzy and weak, and it can lead to an emergency called a hyperosmolar state.

    You're not likely to get symptoms of low blood sugar unless you take insulin or use certain diabetes medicines that lower blood sugar. Common symptoms of low blood sugar include:

    • Sweating.
    • Feeling weak.
    • Feeling shaky.
    • Feeling very hungry.
    • Feeling confused.
  • Prevention

    How can you prevent type 2 diabetes?

    The best way to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes is to adopt healthy habits, which include:

    • Staying at a healthy weight.
    • Exercising regularly.
    • Eating healthy foods.
  • Diagnosis

    How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

    If your doctor thinks that you may have diabetes, you will have blood tests to measure how much sugar is in your blood. A fasting blood sugar (glucose) test, an oral glucose tolerance test, and a hemoglobin A1c test are used. Your doctor will also ask you questions about your medical history and do a physical exam for type 2 diabetes.

    Your doctor will use the test results and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) criteria to diagnose type 2 diabetes.

    Two tests are used to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

    Other possible tests

    It may be hard to tell if you have type 2 or type 1 diabetes. If so, your doctor may do a C-peptide test or test for autoantibodies to help diagnose type 1 diabetes or a slowly developing form of type 1 diabetes called latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Some rare forms of diabetes are caused by a genetic problem. You may need genetic testing to diagnose them. This includes maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY). There are many types of MODY, depending on the gene that is affected.

  • Treatment

    How is type 2 diabetes treated?

    Treatment for type 2 diabetes will change over time to meet your needs. But the focus of your treatment will usually be to keep your blood sugar levels in your target range. This will help prevent problems such as eye, kidney, heart, blood vessel, and nerve disease.

    Some people may need medicines to help their bodies make insulin or decrease insulin resistance. Some medicines slow down how quickly the body absorbs carbohydrates.

    Treatment to manage type 2 diabetes includes:

    • Making healthy food choices and being active.
    • Losing weight, if you need to.
    • Seeing your doctor regularly.
    • Keeping your blood sugar in your target range.
    • Taking medicines, if you need them.
    • Quitting smoking, if you smoke.
    • Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
  • Can type 2 diabetes be cured?

    Can type 2 diabetes be cured?

    There is no known cure for type 2 diabetes. But it can be controlled. And in some cases, it goes into remission.

    Avoid products that promise a cure for type 2 diabetes. For example, antioxidant supplements (vitamins E, C, and carotene) don't cure diabetes. The American Diabetes Association does not recommend taking them.

    If you hear about something new to help type 2 diabetes, check with your doctor or a diabetes educator to find out if it really works. Your health plan may also provide health information on its website.

  • Self-care

    How is type 2 diabetes treated?

    Treatment for type 2 diabetes will change over time to meet your needs. But the focus of your treatment will usually be to keep your blood sugar levels in your target range. This will help prevent problems such as eye, kidney, heart, blood vessel, and nerve disease.

    Some people may need medicines to help their bodies make insulin or decrease insulin resistance. Some medicines slow down how quickly the body absorbs carbohydrates.

    Treatment to manage type 2 diabetes includes:

    • Making healthy food choices and being active.
    • Losing weight, if you need to.
    • Seeing your doctor regularly.
    • Keeping your blood sugar in your target range.
    • Taking medicines, if you need them.
    • Quitting smoking, if you smoke.
    • Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.

    Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.