Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which your body can’t produce enough insulin or use insulin as well as it should. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps cells in your body absorb glucose (sugar) for energy. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar.
The most common type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes affects nearly 30 million Americans—almost 9% of the U.S. population. Another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that, if not treated, often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years.
Type 2 diabetes seems to run in families. Being overweight or obese and not exercising regularly also can cause this condition. People over age 45 are more at risk of type 2 diabetes, as are certain ethnic groups.
A history of gestational diabetes—diabetes brought on by pregnancy—is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Half of all Americans who have type 2 diabetes don’t know it because they don’t have symptoms or symptoms are so mild. When symptoms do appear, they may include unusual thirst and frequent urination, bladder and skin infections that don’t heal, weight loss despite an increase in appetite, blurred vision, and tingling/numbness in hands and feet.
If left untreated or poorly controlled, type 2 diabetes can lead to complications such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke and amputation. That’s why it is important to see an endocrinologist—a doctor who specializes in glands and the hormones they make—for an accurate, timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Why Choose Cooper to Diagnose and Treat Type 2 Diabetes
With 10 board-certified endocrinologists, Cooper is home to South Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive team of diabetes specialists. They also serve as faculty at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University—testament to the high level of advanced expertise available here. Count on us for:
- The latest knowledge about type 2 diabetes treatments, including medications
- An American Diabetes Association (ADA)-recognized self-management and education program, providing exceptional guidance and advice
- Shared medical appointments, an effective way to enhance self-care and improve outcomes; multiple patients are seen as a group for follow-up type 2 diabetes care. These voluntary group visits offer:
- Improved access to your doctor
- The benefit of counseling with additional members of your healthcare team (a nutritionist or health educator, for example)
- A secure forum to share experiences and advice with one another
- A dedicated support group for people with type 2 diabetes, providing an effective forum for sharing experiences, insights and information
- A multidisciplinary team approach to care— Because type 2 diabetes can affect multiple body systems, effective care requires a multidisciplinary team approach. As an academic health system, Cooper has experts in more than 75 specialties, giving you streamlined access to all the expertise you need, all in one place.
Type 2 Diabetes Causes and Risk Factors
Type 2 diabetes is caused by several factors, including lifestyle and genes. You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are overweight or obese, and physically inactive. The disease also tends to run in families.
Other risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
- Age: People 45 and older are at higher risk
- Race/ethnicity: African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white Americans
- Pregnancy and/or a history of gestational diabetes [LINK to Gestational Diabetes page] (pregnancy-induced diabetes)
- Having a baby who weighed more than 9 lbs.
- Low HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
- High triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood)
- Certain medications sometimes disrupt the way insulin works; discuss this with your doctor
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually develop over several years, and can be so mild that you don’t notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all, and don’t discover they have this condition until diabetes-related health problems, such as blurred vision or kidney problems, occur.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:
- Frequent bladder or skin infections that don’t heal
- Unusual thirst and frequent urination
- Extreme hunger along with unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Extreme weakness and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Treating Type 2 Diabetes
The goal of type 2 diabetes treatment is to keep your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. Self-management is a key part of this, and involves:
- Monitoring your blood sugar regularly:
- Testing your blood sugar levels with a portable electronic device (glucose meter) up to several times a day; the meter reads the amount of sugar in a drop of blood, usually from your fingertip, that you place on a disposable test strip
- Having an A1C blood test that provides information about your average levels of blood glucose over the past 3 months. You should get an A1C test at least twice a year; more often if your blood sugar levels are unstable or you have other health conditions.
- Getting consistent physical activity (at least 150 minutes a week)
- Eating healthy meals
- Checking your feet regularly for any sores that don’t heal
- Routine care from a diabetes professional
In fact, you may be able to control your type 2 diabetes with weight loss (losing just 5% to 7% of your body weight can help), exercise and healthy eating habits.
Sometimes, however, you will also need either oral or injected medicines or insulin to lower your blood sugar.