When you have this disease, your body does a poor job turning the carbohydrates in food into energy. This causes sugar to build up in your blood. Over time it raises your risk for heart disease, blindness, nerve and organ damage, and other serious conditions. It strikes people of all ages, and early symptoms are mild. About 1 out of 3 people with type 2 diabetes don't know they have it.
People with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms. When they do appear, one of the first may be being thirsty a lot. Others include dry mouth, bigger appetite, peeing a lot -- sometimes as often as every hour -- and unusual weight loss or gain.
As your blood sugar levels get higher, you may have other problems like headaches, blurred vision, and fatigue.
Signs of Serious Problems
In many cases, type 2 diabetes isn't discovered until it takes a serious toll on your health. Some red flags include:
- Cuts or sores that are slow to heal
- Frequent yeast infections or urinary tract infections
- Itchy skin, especially in the groin area
It Can Affect Your Sex Life
Diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves in your genitals. This could lead to a loss of feeling and make it hard to have an orgasm. Women are also prone to vaginal dryness. About 1 in 3 who have diabetes will have some form of sexual trouble. Between 35% and 70% of men who have the disease will have at least some degree of impotence in their lifetime.
Risk Factors You Can Control
Some health habits and medical conditions related to your lifestyle can raise your odds of having type 2 diabetes, including:
- Being overweight, especially at the waist
- A couch potato lifestyle
- Eating a lot of red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and sweets
- Unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Risk Factors for Women
You're more likely to get type 2 diabetes later on if you:
- Had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant
- Delivered a baby that weighed over 9 pounds
- Had polycystic ovary syndrome
In type 2 diabetes, your cells can’t use sugar properly. That means there's a lot of it in your blood. If you have a condition called insulin resistance, your body makes the hormone, but your cells don’t use it or respond to it like they should. If you’ve had type 2 diabetes for a while but haven’t treated it, your pancreas will make less insulin.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your doctor will take some blood and do an A1c test. It shows your average blood sugar level over the past 2-3 months. If you already have symptoms, he might give you a random blood glucose test, which shows what your current level is.
Your Diet Makes a Difference
You can control blood sugar levels by changing your diet and losing extra weight. That will also cut your risk of complications. Carefully track the carbs in your diet. Keep amounts the same at every meal, watch how much fat and protein you eat, and cut calories. Ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian to help you make healthy choices and an eating plan.
Exercise Is Important
Regular exercise, like strength training or walking, improves your body's use of insulin and can lower blood sugar levels. Being active also helps get rid of body fat, lower blood pressure, and protect you from heart disease. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week.
Heart and Artery Troubles
If you don't treat diabetes with a healthy diet and exercise, you're more likely to get plaque in your arteries than people who don't have it. This sticky substance slows blood flow and increases your risk of clots. It leads to hardening of the arteries (called atherosclerosis), which makes you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. About 2 of 3 people with diabetes die of heart disease.
Can It Be Prevented?
One of the most surprising things about type 2 diabetes is that you can avoid it. To lower your risk, follow the same guidelines for warding off heart disease:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Talk to your doctor about being tested for prediabetes.
People with prediabetes can avoid getting diabetes with lifestyle changes and medication.