To manage type 2 diabetes, it is important to know that those with the condition can lead healthy, regular lives, but it is necessary to diagnose it and take action before glucose fluctuations damage blood vessels, which could lead to serious complications.
Diabetes is a condition marked by high blood glucose, or sugar, and is classified into several types. In the case of diabetes type 2, the body does not respond normally to insulin or is said to be insulin resistant, where the body does not make enough insulin.
International Diabetes Federation, which organizes World Diabetes Day, estimates that of the 1 in 10 adults globally who have diabetes, more than 90% have type 2, and nearly half are not yet diagnosed.
Diabetes can damage both small and large blood vessels, causing acute and chronic complications.
Acute complications can include episodes of very low or high blood sugar, while chronic complications include damage to the nerves, heart, eyes, and gut, which can have serious consequences including limb amputation, a kidney transplant, or blindness.
Common symptoms of diabetes
These include increased urination and thirst, among others. The body excretes the excess sugar through the urine, leading to frequent urination, which in turn can lead to dehydration. The removal of the excess sugar can also mean reduced calorie absorption and, therefore, weight loss.
However, this is more common in people with type 1 diabetes. Patients who manage type 2 diabetes tend more often to fall into the category of overweight or obese.
In addition, glucose fluctuations can lead to tiredness and fatigue, blurred vision, and tingling in the feet, and individuals might notice that wounds heal slowly.
However, blood sugar levels can increase gradually over time, with the body adapting. So you may not feel any difference in your well-being. There may be no symptoms until damage has already occurred, which is why timely and regular screening is important to manage type 2 diabetes.
Screening recommendations vary between different health bodies, and some individuals are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes than others, so it is best to talk to their healthcare provider about how often they need screening.
In general, it is recommended that people aged 35 and above have a baseline screen and if the results are normal, be screened at least once in three years.
Those with elevated blood sugar will need to be tested more frequently as will those who are at higher risk, which includes people who are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure, low HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, a family history of diabetes, and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
Can you manage type 2 diabetes?
The good news is that one can manage type 2 diabetes by making lifestyle changes that can help to prevent, delay or in some cases, even reverse a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight;
- Eating a balanced diet that includes vegetables, protein, good fats and carbohydrates;
- Exercising regularly.
Treatment can also entail taking prescribed medications such as metformin. In particular, weight reduction can have a positive effect on insulin resistance and even a modest reduction of 5-10% of body weight has been found to reduce glucose levels.
In addition to metformin, many new diabetes treatment options have recently become available and some of these also help address comorbidities associated with the condition, although not all are covered by health insurance.
If diagnosed with diabetes speak to your physician about newer therapies to manage type 2 diabetes, and which options or combination of therapies would work best for you. The treatment plan will be based on personal circumstances and the presence of comorbidities such as weight issues, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease.
The process might involve trial and error as sometimes medication may need to be reduced to avoid falls in the elderly, or to avoid dangerous acute complications such as hypoglycemia or very low blood sugar.
World Diabetes Day reminds people of measures such as screening, making healthy lifestyle choices, and exploring various treatment options to manage type 2 diabetes, so they can prevent, delay, reverse or effectively manage diabetes and avoid serious complications from this prevalent disease.