Type 2 diabetes affects about one million Australians, making up between 85 and 90 per cent of all diabetes cases in the country. Adults over the age of 45 are most likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes struggle to convert carbohydrates in food into energy, causing a build-up of sugar in their blood. As a result, their bodies become resilient to the normal effects of insulin, or the pancreas may lose the ability to produce enough insulin for the body.
It is a progressive disorder, developing over a number of years, in which time insulin resistance starts. This means that insulin becomes increasingly ineffective at managing the body’s blood glucose levels. This insulin resistance triggers the pancreas to produce even more insulin, which wears out insulin-producing cells over long periods of time. By the time someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they will have lost 50 to 70 per cent of their insulin-making cells.
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when one or more of these occur:
- the pancreas does not produce enough insulin
- the insulin that is produced by the pancreas does not work effectively
- the cells in the body stop responding effectively to insulin.
People with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of developing heart disease, organ and nerve damage and going blind. It can also affect your sex life, by damaging nerves and blood vessels in your genitals. One in every three people with diabetes will experience sexual difficulties. Women with diabetes are more prone to vaginal dryness and between 30 and 70 per cent of men will experience some degree of impotence at some stage in their lives.
One in three people with type 2 diabetes don’t know that they have it. Early symptoms can be mild, making them hard to detect. Unfortunately, many people won’t be diagnosed with the condition until it has already taken a serious toll on their health.
Common early symptoms of type 2 diabetes include excessive thirst, hunger, frequent urination, having a dry mouth and unusual weight gain or loss.
Over time, the high blood sugar levels may cause other symptoms including blurry vision, fatigue and headaches.
Some symptoms are more serious and suggest that type 2 diabetes has likely already caused serious harm to your body. These include more frequent urinary tract infections or yeast infections, itchy skin in the crotch area, and cuts that are slow to heal.
While scientists do not know what causes type 2 diabetes, we do know that it has strong genetic and family related risk factors. Certain lifestyle and health-related factors can also increase your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Risk factors include:
- eating large amounts of red meat, processed meat, lollies and high-fat dairy products
- being overweight, particularly having a large waistline
- having unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- having a family history of diabetes
- being over 55 years old
- being over 45 with high blood pressure.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed through medication and lifestyle modifications. These lifestyle changes may include eating well, maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising, which lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease and helps insulin work more effectively.
Do you have diabetes? Are you concerned you may develop it as you get older?
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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.