Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes means that your body cannot use or store glucose (sugar) as it should. You may have enough insulin, but it does not work as it should to open cell walls for glucose to enter. This is called insulin resistance. It is the main problem of type 2 diabetes. Glucose cannot enter the cells very well and blood glucose levels rise. Your pancreas makes insulin. When blood glucose levels rise, the body responds by making extra insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal. After years of your pancreas working so hard, it gets tired and can no longer keep up. Insulin supply goes down and blood glucose levels go up. This is when type 2 is diagnosed.
Food and Insulin
Most of the food you eat turns into glucose and enters the blood. The rise in blood sugar after a meal signals the pancreas to release the hormone, insulin. It is needed to move glucose into the cells. Insulin opens the cell walls and allows glucose to enter. Once inside the cells, glucose is burned for energy. Glucose is the fuel that your body needs to function well.
Symptoms of High Blood Glucose
You may not have any symptoms. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes come on slowly, over months and even years. Symptoms could include:
- Frequent urination
- Feeling tired
- Dry or itchy skin
- Frequent infections
- Slow healing
- Numbness or tingling in toes or fingers
- Blurred vision
- A1C test result greater than or equal to 6.5% (See Health Facts for You: A1C Test and the Estimated Average Glucose)
- Fasting blood glucose greater than or equal to 126 mg/dl ("fasting" means nothing to eat for at least 8 hours before test)
- Symptoms of diabetes and blood glucose of 200 mg/dl or higher
Diet and exercise are keys to improving blood glucose control. If that is not enough, there are medicines that can help. You may be able to take pills, insulin, or both. Knowing about diabetes and how it’s treated will help you stay healthy. You first need to learn how to check your blood sugars at home. Learn about eating healthy and how to balance medicine, meals, and exercise. Learn about your medicines and how to take them. You must know all you can about how to live with diabetes so you can keep your blood sugar levels controlled. See your health care team who can help screen for problems.
- Over 40 years old
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- History of diabetes during pregnancy
- Given birth to a baby weighing over 9 pounds
- African American, Hispanic American, or Native American
Diabetes Care is a Team Effort
You are the most important person on the team because diabetes care and blood glucose control is really up to you! Your doctor, nurse educator and dietician will help you learn about taking care of yourself. Later you will add your dentist, eye doctor and maybe even a foot doctor to your team, as well as a counselor, and someone to help you with an exercise plan. Don’t forget to include family members and friends who can support you.
Spanish version of this HFFY is #6201
American Diabetes Association (2012). Clinical Practice Recommendations 2012. Diabetes Care, 35(S1).
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/12/2012
Copyright © 03/12/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5603
Print Health Fact For You