Type 2 diabetes is often thought of as the “good kind” of diabetes but there is no such thing as good diabetes. Patients with type 2 diabetes do have an advantage as they can often control their glucose by eating right and exercising so that they do not have to take any medications or injections. Type one and type 2 diabetes are often thought of as the same disease but it is important to note that they are very different from one another. It is like comparing cancer and muscular dystrophy when you compare the two. Type 2 diabetes is its own disease and it is important that we treat it that way.
People that have type 2 diabetes continue to make insulin and their production can be anywhere from on the low side, normal, or too much insulin. Despite the amount of insulin that is produced by the body the blood glucose levels continue to be high in type 2 diabetes patients. The reason for this is that those that have type 2 have become resistant to insulin. What this means is that there is insulin but it is not able to be utilized by the body.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
There are several known causes of type 2 diabetes including:
- Beta cell defects. What this means is that over time the insulin producing cells make less and less insulin.
- Reduced beta cell mass. Many people with type 2 diabetes have half the amount of insulin producing cells as they need for their body weight.
- Post receptor defect. This is a defect that allows insulin into the cell but the cell does not regulate insulin activity in the proper way. This defect causes insulin resistance.
- Beta cells that are unresponsive to high blood sugar. In these cases the beta or islet cells are unresponsive or have a delayed response to rising blood sugar.
There are some risk factors that people may want to know about that are associated with type 2 diabetes. A family history of type 2 diabetes means that you are at a predisposition for developing the disease. If your parents have type 2 you have a 15 percent chance of developing the disease and if you have a twin brother or sister that has the disease you have a 90 percent chance of developing the disease in your lifetime.
In addition to family history, races as well as obesity are well known risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes. It is known that those that carry their weight around the middle of their body are at an additional risk of developing the disease as well as those that have a very sedentary lifestyle.
Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes
There are several treatments available for those that are afflicted with type 2 diabetes. Upon onset many patients are required to take insulin injections until they can regulate the production of insulin within their body. Doctors will usually prescribe a strict diet, blood glucose monitoring, and exercise. For those that are obese or above their recommended body weight, a weight loss plan will likely be put in place. These are the first steps, at least until glucose levels are out of a dangerous zone and somewhat regulated. Many patients have tremendous success just with exercising and eating better so that they do not require any medications after the first week or so on insulin injections.
In addition to insulin many type 2 patients benefit from oral medications that aide in insulin production or the way that the glucose and the insulin work together. These are usually introduced upon onset and many people remain on one or more medications throughout their lives. A lot of people with type 2 have a hard time taking the medication every day because they don’t feel sick, which can make stable glucose levels very difficult to achieve.
Ongoing Diabetes Care
More than 17 million Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to date and more are being diagnosed every day. It has been estimated that there are millions more that are living with the disease without knowing it. Those that have been diagnosed usually have to visit their endocrinologist every few months for an update on how well their medications are working and to test the level of sugar that coats their red blood cells over a thirty day period of time.
Luckily type 2 diabetes does not always require insulin injections and there is a lot that each patient can do to positively affect his or her diabetes. If doctors and patients work together well very good health can be achieved in very little time, but ongoing care will always be required.
While ongoing care is necessary there are advances in treatment being made all the time. In 2006 the FDA approved the use of inhaled insulin, which is a huge step forward. While insulin and oral diabetes medications only treat the disease, it is outstanding that diabetes care and management is becoming a little bit easier with each passing year.
Although diabetes treatment advances are being made, what we really need is public education. Diabetes has become so commonplace that people have become complacent about taking action so that they do not become afflicted with the disease. While you can enjoy life with type 2 diabetes, it is much more enjoyable when you do not have to count carbohydrates or monitor your blood glucose before and after meals.