Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

parents with young son
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body's inability to make enough, or to properly use, insulin. It used to be called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).
Without adequate production or utilization of insulin, the body cannot move blood sugar into the cells. It is a chronic disease that has no known cure. It is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases.
What is Pre-Diabetes?
In pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be defined as diabetes. However, many people with pre-diabetes develop Type 2 diabetes within 10 years, states the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases.
Pre-diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, people with pre-diabetes can delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
The exact cause of Type 2 diabetes is unknown. However, there does appear to be a genetic factor which causes it to run in families. And, although a person can inherit a tendency to develop Type 2 diabetes, it usually takes another factor, such as obesity, to bring on the disease. 
Prevention or Delay of Onset of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed by following a program to eliminate or reduce risk factors - particularly losing weight and increasing exercise. Information gathered by the Diabetes Prevention Program, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association, continues to study this possibility.
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
The following are the most common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include: 
  • Frequent infections that are not easily healed
  • High levels of sugar in the blood when tested
  • High levels of sugar in the urine when tested
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger but loss of weight
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme weakness and fatigue
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Tingling or loss of feeling in the hands or feet

Some people who have Type 2 diabetes exhibit no symptoms. Symptoms may be mild and almost unnoticeable, or easy to confuse with signs of aging. Half of all Americans who have diabetes do not know it.

The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Risk Factors
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include the following: 
  • Age (people over the age of 45 are at higher risk for diabetes)
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Not exercising regularly
  • Race and ethnicity (being a member of certain racial and ethnic groups - such as African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans - increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes)
  • History of gestational diabetes, or giving birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds 
  • A low level HDL (high-density lipoprotein - the "good cholesterol")
    a high triglyceride level

Specific treatment for Type 2 diabetes will be determined by your physician based on:
  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment is to keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Emphasis is on control of blood sugar (glucose) by monitoring the levels, regular physical activity, meal planning, and routine healthcare. Treatment of diabetes is an ongoing process of management and education that includes not only the person with diabetes, but also healthcare professionals and family members.

Often, Type 2 diabetes can be controlled through losing weight, improved nutrition and exercise alone. However, in some cases, these measures are not enough and either oral medications and/or insulin must be used. Treatment often includes:
  • Proper diet
  • Weight control
  • An appropriate exercise program
  • Regular foot inspections
  • Oral medications and/or insulin replacement therapy, as directed by your physician
  • Regular monitoring of the hemoglobin A1c levels

    • The hemoglobin A1c test (also called HbA1c test) shows the average amount of sugar in the blood over the last three months. The result will indicate if the blood sugar level is under control. The frequency of HbA1c testing will be determined by your physician. It is recommended that testing occur at least twice a year if the blood sugar level is in the target range and stable, and more frequently if the blood sugar level is unstable.
Untreated or inappropriately-treated diabetes can cause problems with the kidneys, legs, feet, eyes, heart, nerves and blood flow, which could lead to kidney failure, gangrene, amputation, blindness or stroke. For these reasons, it is important to follow a strict treatment plan.