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Guide to type 2 diabetes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can still produce insulin, but it either isn't enough or the level/quality of insulin produced in insufficient for the body (whereas type 1 diabetes causes the body to produce no insulin at all). Today, type 2 diabetes accounts for 85 to 95 percent of people with diabetes.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can no longer produce enough insulin, or adequate insulin, for the body to utilise. Insulin is a naturally-secreted hormone which regulates the amount of glucose (blood sugar) in the blood stream; without the correct amount of insulin the body cannot function normally.

Causes of type 2 diabetes

There is no definitive cause for type 2 diabetes. However, there are several factors that can contribute to the onset of the disease. These are normally:

  • Obesity: If you are overweight or obese you have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fat around the abdomen (active fat) releases chemicals that can interfere with the body's metabolism or cardiovascular system; the amount of sugar you take in can also cause your body's normal insulin production levels to become inadequate.
  • Age: You're more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as you get older (normally over 40) because people tend to put on more weight and exercise less. However, some children as young as 7 have now been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  • Genetics: You are more likely to get type 2 diabetes if you have a relative, such as a brother or sister, who also has it.
  • Other factors: If you have impaired fasting glycaemia or impaired glucose tolerance you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. These conditions are often known as "pre-diabetes" conditions are you blood glucose levels will be higher than normal with these conditions.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

The main symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Feeling very thirsty;
  • Going to the toilet more often than usual (particularly during the night);
  • Extreme tiredness;
  • Cuts and sores taking longer to heal.

Other symptoms may included blurred vision from dry eyes, recurring thrush due to excess glucose in urine and weight loss or loss of muscle bulk.

How can I treat type 2 diabetes?

There is no known cure for type 2 diabetes. However, treatment will normally include a combination of dietary changes and, in some cases, insulin injections to control blood sugar in your body. Individual treatment plans will be drawn up by your doctor as each case can very significantly.

If you have a history of type 2 diabetes in your family or may be at risk of developing it, the NHS recommends the preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes by:

  • Exercising regularly (at least 120 minutes of activity a day);
  • Losing weight if your are overweight or obese;
  • Keeping your blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control;
  • Not smoking and only drinking alcohol in moderation.

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