Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

type 2 diabetesOne of the primary sources of “fuel” for the human body is sugar (glucose), which either comes from the liver (where it is made and stored) or from the sugar (glucose) found in the food that we eat. Under “normal” circumstances, the sugar (glucose) in our blood stream is regulated with a hormone called insulin which is produced in the pancreas. As the sugar (glucose) levels in the blood stream rise, the pancreas releases insulin which allows the glucose to leave the blood stream and enter our cells for fuel. This then reduces the glucose level in the blood and as the glucose levels go down, the pancreas releases less insulin.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Sometimes this system of blood sugar regulation fails and the body either becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or the pancreas stops making enough insulin. When this occurs, the person can develop Type 2 Diabetes – which according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), accounts for  90%-95% of all cases of Diabetes. It is still not known exactly why this happens, but it is believed that genetics, environmental factors, excess weight and inactivity can contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes. Some of the more common symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes can include:

  • Increased thirst (as fluids leave the tissues and enter the bloodstream to help remove excess sugar – the tissues become dehydrated and thirst increases)
  • Frequent urination (as more liquids are consumed to deal with thirst, urination increases)
  • Increased hunger (low insulin means sugar is not getting into the cells for fuel, so the cells starve for fuel and hunger increases)
  • Weight loss (even with increased eating, the sugar is leaving the body through urination instead of entering the cells for fuel and the cells begin consuming fat and muscle tissue for fuel)
  • Fatigue (the cells / tissues are starved for fuel, causing fatigue)
  • Slow-healing sores (due to the lack of fuel for the cells to perform and heal properly)
  • Blurred vision (fluid leaving the tissues includes fluid in the lenses of the eyes affecting focus)

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Type 2 Diabetes?

If the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes go untreated, the long term effects can be quite serious, including:

  • Heart Problems – coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries, increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • Damaged Nerves – excess sugar in the bloodstream causes damage to the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish the nerve endings in the extremities – primarily the legs. This causes numbness, tingling, loss of feeling, burning and pain in the toes, legs and fingers. Eventually this causes problems healing and ultimately can lead to greatly increased risk of amputations.
  • Kidney Damage – due to extra stress on the kidneys as they try to remove excess sugar.
  • Blindness / Vision Impairment – caused by damage to blood vessels feeding the eyes.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease – although the reason is yet unknown, persons with Type 2 Diabetes have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

What Can Be Done To Treat and/or Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Once a person develops Type 2 Diabetes, there is no cure. The best recommendation is to increase the odds of prevention and take action to reduce the symptoms and effects. This can often be done by healthy life style choices such as:

  • Eating healthy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly

In addition, there are medications that can be prescribed which help manage the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, however, some of these, such as Invokana (canagliflozin) and the related drug Invokamet have been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country based on the claim that their use actually raises the risk of amputations, kidney injuries and other severe complications.

What If You Think You May Have A Problem From Type 2 Diabetes?

Since the long term effects of Type 2 Diabetes can be so devastating, it is important for anyone who suffers these symptoms to consult with their doctor as soon as possible. This will give your doctor the best opportunity for proper diagnosis and successful treatment of the condition.