According to the American Diabetes Association, 30.3 million people in the United States—or 9.4 percent of all Americans—have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases. In 2017, the group estimated that 7.2 million Americans have diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed.
And it’s a very serious disease which kills about 80,000 people in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is highly treatable. In fact, there have been cases of remission, in which all signs and symptoms disappear. Learning about the risks, symptoms and treatment can help you watch for signs of and perhaps even reduce your chances of getting this deadly disease.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
When you have type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to use insulin properly. Initially, your pancreas produces extra insulin to compensate, but eventually it is unable to make enough insulin to control the glucose levels in your blood. Glucose builds up in your cells and can eventually cause eye, kidney, nerve or heart problems.
Who Is At Risk?
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is unpreventable and hits its patients at random, often at a young age, type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Although there are risk factors you cannot control, such as a family history, age and ethnicity, other risk factors that lead to type 2 diabetes are related to lifestyle.
Common risk factors include:
- Overweight and obesity
- High blood pressure
- Lack of physical activity
- Low level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- High level of triglycerides
Early Warning Signs
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be tricky to spot, because they can often be chalked up to other issues. The most common early signs of the disease are:
- Extreme thirst
- Increased hunger
- Frequent urination
- Notable fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Changes in vision
- Patches of dark skin
- Wounds or bruises that heal slowly
- Frequent yeast infections
Getting A Diagnosis
If you think you are exhibiting signs of type 2 diabetes, if you have a body mass index of 25 or higher or if you are over 45, the ADA recommends seeking a screening from a health care professional. Your doctor may recommend testing your blood glucose level using several methods. You may be required to test twice in order to diagnose diabetes.
Management And Treatment
A positive diagnosis can mean different things for different people. Some people with type 2 diabetes need to test their blood sugar multiple times each day, take oral medications or inject insulin. Healthy eating and exercise are effective ways to help manage diabetes, as well.
Researchers are developing new and improved methods to help manage, prevent and perhaps even cure type 2 diabetes. For instance, a pharmaceutical company is working on an oral insulin capsule, which could replace painful injections and researchers at the University of California, San Diego have found a way to reverse insulin resistance in mice.
Decrease Your Risks
If you have risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes or if you have been diagnosed as prediabetic, you can begin taking steps to delay or even avoid getting this disease.
Here are a few options:
- Lose weight—Shedding as little as 5 to 10 percent of your current weight (and keeping those extra pounds off) can help prevent diabetes.
- Eat healthy—Choose smaller portions. Limit sugar. Eat more whole foods.
- Get active—Exercising for 30 minutes five days a week can help lower blood sugar levels.
- Quit smoking—This habit can lead to insulin resistance.
- Seek medical advice—Your health care provider can help assess your risks and develop a plan to keep you in peak health.