Type 2 Diabetes

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and how do you treat it? Take the first steps now.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, representing up to 90% of all cases of the disease. This chronic condition can cause a range of serious health problems and is a lifelong health concern, but there are plenty of simple steps you can take to delay or even prevent its onset.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition that develops over the course of several years. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, or when the pancreas gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin for the body to function normally. As a result, your body is unable to convert glucose into energy, which means too much glucose is left in the blood.

The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown, but there are several risk factors associated with the condition. These include:

  • Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Having pre-diabetes
  • Living an inactive or sedentary lifestyle
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (women)
  • Increasing age, especially after 45 years
  • Being from certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, Polynesian, Chinese or Indian
  • Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Taking some steroid or anti-psychotic medications

People who suffer from diabetes are up to 4 times more likely to suffer from heart attack or stroke, and 3 times more likely to suffer kidney failure. It is also the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia, while amputations are another common complication of the condition. Depression, anxiety and other mental health-related issues can result as well.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

The signs and symptoms of diabetes often develop slowly over a long period of time. As a result, many people suffer from this chronic condition for years without even realising it. However, there are several symptoms you should keep an eye out for including:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination (especially at night)
  • Increased hunger levels
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Slow-healing sores and cuts or frequent problems with infections
  • Pain or tingling in the legs or feet
  • Mood swings and headaches
  • Leg cramps

If you suffer any of these symptoms regularly, visit your doctor. Your GP may recommend that you are tested for diabetes, which can be done with a simple blood test.

How do I treat type 2 diabetes?

There is currently no cure for type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, you also can’t change any of your past behaviours that may have led to the onset of the condition. However, if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the most important thing to do is to start concentrating on the future. If type 2 diabetes is diagnosed early and you follow an optimum treatment plan, you can greatly reduce the risk of developing any related complications.

The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be effectively managed through some simple lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle changes include:

  • Eating well. This will help manage your blood glucose levels and is also crucial to ensuring that you stay in a healthy weight range.
  • Exercising regularly. Exercise helps the insulin that the body produces work more effectively, while it can also help lower your blood pressure and decrease the chances of heart disease.
  • Losing weight. A combination of the right diet and regular exercise will help you lose weight and then maintain a healthy weight. This can not only reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but also lower the risk of developing any complications.
  • Regular health checks. Regular health checks with your GP or with other members of your diabetes treatment team (such as an endocrinologist, a diabetes educator or a dietitian) will ensure that you stay on track.
  • Regular blood glucose testing. This ensures that the lifestyle changes and treatment options you use are effectively controlling your blood glucose levels. Keeping your levels as close to the recommended target range as possible will prevent complications and also let you know whether you need to adjust your treatment plan.

However, you may eventually need to start taking medication to control your blood glucose levels, such as tablets or injectable medications. If the condition progresses, you may require regular insulin injections to ensure that your blood glucose levels remain in the healthy range.

Did you know?

  • One Australian develops diabetes every 5 minutes
  • Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. This figure includes an estimated 500,000 people with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 85% and 90% of all cases of diabetes
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia
  • More than 4,400 amputations occur in Australia every year as a result of diabetes
  • An estimated 1 million Australians had type 2 diabetes in 2014-15
  • Around 18,100 people with type 2 diabetes began insulin treatment in 2015
  • 92% of insulin-treated type 2 diabetes cases occurred among people aged 40 years and older
  • In 2014-15, the prevalence of diabetes in Australia was higher for men (7%) than women (5%)

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Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment is not an endorsement and does not imply its appropriateness for your circumstances. Our information is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional and you should not rely on this general information for diagnosis or answers for your particular circumstances. Instead seek advice from a registered health care professional. This content has been prepared for Australian audiences and was accurate at the time of publication but, over time, the currency and completeness of the published material may change.

Picture: Shutterstock

Tim Falk

A writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians compare and find the right products. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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