Updated 16 September 2021 | Approved By Dr. Umberto Russo
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?Type 2 diabetes or diabetes Mellitus Type 2 (T2DM) is a chronic condition that causes higher than normal blood glucose levels in the bloodstream. Over time, this condition can lead to poor health outcomes and the risk of developing other diseases. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 1.2 million Australians live with diabetes . Currently, this is the 7th leading cause of death in the country .
Healthy IndividualsHealthy individuals will have a constant supply of insulin to help the body process glucose. Glucose is a sugar molecule that is broken down from most foods (e.g. bread, fruit, rice, etc.). The body uses glucose as energy for structures, such as muscles, organs and brain function. Usually, hormones called insulin, produced in the pancreas, help the body absorb sugar for energy.
Individuals with Type 2 DiabetesThose with diabetes type 2 will either be insulin resistant (where the body won’t respond to insulin) or won’t produce enough. Without enough transportation of glucose into the body, sugar in the bloodstream will continue to remain high (also known as hyperglycaemia). Constantly being hyperglycaemic can cause damage to the blood vessels and inflammation.
Type 1 vs Type 2 DiabetesThere are several types of diabetes, including type 1, type 2 and gestational. Generally, type 2 diabetes is the most common form, which occurs in around 85-90% of affected individuals . One common question that patients will ask is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. When comparing these two forms of diabetes, both conditions will lead to high blood glucose levels or hyperglycaemia. However, those with type 1 won’t be able to produce insulin. For whatever reason, the body’s immune system will attack the body’s pancreas, which is responsible for its production. Generally, people living with type 2 are insulin resistant. While the body still produces insulin, it can’t or does not use it as effectively to process glucose. Compared to type 1 diabetes, type 2 occurs over time, particularly during adulthood. Lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet, insufficient physical activity levels, and obesity, are key reasons individuals develop diabetes. On the other hand, type 1 more commonly occurs before adulthood and is less associated with lifestyle habits.
Types 2 Diabetes SymptomsBeing able to identify symptoms associated with diabetes is crucial for ensuring a proper diagnosis. If you suspect that you have diabetes, seeing a GP is essential for receiving the proper treatments. Appropriate tests will be conducted if your GP identifies signs of type 2 diabetes. Examples have been listed below :
- Urinating more than usual
- Being excessively thirsty
- Being constantly fatigued and low energy
- Loss of sensation (particularly of the hands and feet)
- Regular bacterial and fungal infections
- Blurry eyesight
Type 2 Diabetes CausesLifestyle factors, genetics, environmental or a combination of both play a significant role in determining whether someone may be at risk of developing diabetes type 2.
GeneticsGenetics is a crucial indicator of who might be at risk of developing diabetes. For example, certain ethnic groups are more frequently diagnosed. Those with Pacific Islander, South European, Indigenous and/or Asian backgrounds are more than two times more likely to have diabetes than other Australians .
Lifestyle ChoicesDiet, physical activity levels and being obese (especially those who have disproportionately large bellies) determine the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes .
Other ConditionsSecondary diabetes occurs when another condition has caused damage to the insulin-producing cells or beta-cells of the pancreas . Examples of such conditions include:
- Disease of the pancreas (e.g. cancer, cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, etc.)
- Poor reactions to certain medications (e.g. corticosteroids, beta-blockers, etc.)
- Hormonal issues (e.g. pheochromocytoma, etc.)
Is Type 2 Diabetes Hereditary?While there is a strong connection between genetics and developing diabetes, there is a higher chance of also having it if your parents have been diagnosed. However, just because other family members have diabetes does not mean that you will be guaranteed to inherit the condition. Risk can be minimised by changing lifestyle habits and behaviours.
Is Diabetes Contagious?Diabetes itself is not contagious.
Diabetes Diagnosis and TestsGP’s play a crucial role in helping diagnose and manage diabetes type 2 conditions. After questions and performing a medical examination, appropriate tests will be arranged if there are any suspicions. Typical assessments include various blood glucose tests, such as FBG and HbA1c screenings. Once these results are obtained, a formal diagnosis can be provided.
Type 2 Diabetes TreatmentAfter diagnosis, GP’s will ensure you receive medical treatment to help manage the symptoms.
Type 2 Diabetes MedicationGPs will prescribe diabetes medications to help manage high blood glucose levels, including insulin and metformin. Depending on your medical circumstances, other additional drugs, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, may also be recommended as preventative measures .
Type 2 Diabetes Diet and Lifestyle ChangesDeveloping a healthy lifestyle is quintessential for helping manage your diabetes by reducing your long-term blood sugar levels. As part of your treatment plan, your GP will go through several diet and lifestyle strategies, including:
- Weight management.
- Nutrition and dietary changes, such as reducing intake of processed sugars.
- Promoting more exercise and physical activity.
- Referrals to allied health professionals, including exercise physiologists, dieticians, and podiatrists.
- Smoking cessation
- Managing alcohol intake
Is Type 2 Diabetes Curable?Currently, there is no clear-cut evidence to suggest that diabetes is curable in the long term. However, some research  indicates that blood sugar levels can be reduced to the point where diabetes may undergo remission (at least for a period).
ComplicationsWhile having elevated blood sugar levels may not be immediately concerning, it can lead to several more severe health outcomes. Consequently, consulting a GP should be a priority for receiving a formal diagnosis and treatment plan as soon as possible. Examples of complications that can be avoided include :
- Nerve and blood vessel damage to the feet and hands can lead to amputation
- Heart attack
- Diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness
- Diabetic foot ulcers
- Kidney disease
- Poor wound healing and uncontrolled bleeding
Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.
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