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Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 or non-insulin dependant diabetes is the commonest form of diabetes and has reached epidemic proportions but is normally preventable.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the commonest form of diabetes and about 90% of all diabetes is Type 2. It used to be called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult onset diabetes. It is a progressive disease caused by  a lack of control of blood sugar levels, and it passes through the stages of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome before reaching the stage where it is severe enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. (See What Causes Diabetes?). Each of these stages are considered to be due to an unhealthy lifestyle and are considered to be reversible if enough effort is made to improve your lifestyle by healthy eating , exercise and watching your weight.

Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the developed world, and the rest of the world is catching up as it develops. It used to be a disease that was only seen in adults over 40, but now it is being seen at much younger ages, and young adults, teenagers and children are increasingly affected, some as young as seven. This is thought to be mainly due to poor diet and being overweight or obese.

Signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes start gradually, and are easy to ignore such as an increased thirst causing you to drink more and therefore pass water more often, especially at night when you may have to get up to go to the toilet more often. Tiredness and fatigue, loss of weight and genital itching or frequent bouts of vaginal thrush can also be symptoms. These can all be accepted as a part of ageing, and so it is common to have Type 2 diabetes for years before it is diagnosed and there may be up to a million people in the UK with diabetes who don't know that they have it. This is why having a regular health check with your doctor is important, as this is one of the routine tests that is given.

Latent Autoimmune Diabetes In Adults (LADA) is a form of Type 1 diabetes that occurs in adults and is caused by an autoimmune reaction where the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are attacked by your own immune system. It is easily confused with Type 2 diabetes but will ultimately require insulin therapy. 10-25% of diabetics diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes may actually be suffering from LADA.

Is Type 2 Diabetes Serious?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease, and isn't just a mild form of Type 1 (Insulin dependant) diabetes. Just because it doesn't need insulin injections doesn't mean it isn't a major health problem, as it at least doubles your chance of dying, and increases your chance of heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage due to the underlying changes in the way your body works. These can lead to blindness and amputations if the diabetes is poorly controlled. (See Health Problems Caused By Diabetes).

How Is Type 2 Diabetes Treated?

Lifestyle changes are the first step in treating Type 2 diabetes, and the disease is considered to be reversible if enough effort is made to improve your lifestyle by healthy eating , exercise and watching your weight. However, this usually fails as there is insufficient intensive support from the NHS and most people are insufficiently motivated to implement the lifestyle changes that are necessary to achieve success. Using the services of a nutritionist and a personal trainer are recommended as long as these are used in conjunction with your doctor and not instead of proper medical treatment.

Tablet medicines are used if lifestyle changes aren't sufficient to keep the diabetes under control, though they don't control all of the progressive health problems caused by diabetes which are causing damage to the body by the fundamental changes in the way the body works.These medicines help to improve blood glucose control by either stimulating the production of more insulin or making the cells in the body more sensitive to the effects of the insulin that is already circulating. However there often comes a time when these don't work as the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are either exhausted or damaged, and then Insulin therapy is needed. This means that blood glucose meters together with blood glucose test strips and lancets and lancing devices are used to regularly check blood glucose levels to see that they are within the normal range, and if not then the diet or insulin dosage is adjusted as agreed in your diabetes care plan from your doctor.

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