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Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting around 2.6 million people in the UK.

A person with type 2 diabetes has insulin resistance, meaning their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body doesn't react properly to insulin.

Insulin is used by the body to manage glucose, or sugar, levels in the blood and to convert glucose into energy.

For some people, type 2 diabetes may be managed through diet and exercise. Other people may also need medicine to manage blood sugar.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being over 40, having a family history of diabetes, being of South Asian, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin or being overweight or obese.

How type 2 diabetes affects the body

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When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the cells are not able to function properly. Other problems associated with the build-up of glucose in the blood include:

  • Dehydration. The build-up of sugar in the blood leads to excess glucose in the urine because the kidneys can’t deal with the high sugar levels. The sugar in the urine draws water with it, causing an increase in urination. When the kidneys lose the glucose through the urine, a large amount of water is also lost, causing dehydration.
  • Diabetic coma (hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic non-ketotic syndrome). When a person with type 2 diabetes becomes severely dehydrated and is not able to drink enough fluids to make up for the fluid losses, they may develop this life-threatening complication.
  • Damage to the body. Over time, the high glucose levels in the blood may damage the nerves and predispose a person to atherosclerosis (narrowing) of the arteries that can cause heart attack and stroke, and damage the eyes and kidneys.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can cause serious health complications. That's why it is very important to know how to spot type 2 diabetes symptoms. Even pre- diabetes can increase the chance of heart disease just like type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor about preventative measures you can take now to reduce the chance of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes due to high blood sugar may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Loss of consciousness (rare)
  • Recurrent infections, including thrush infections

Seek medical advice if you have any type 2 diabetes symptoms or if you have further questions about type 2 diabetes. It’s important to get diabetes testing and start a treatment plan early to prevent serious diabetes complications.

Type 2 diabetes may not be diagnosed until health complications have occurred. Most often, with type 2 diabetes there are no diabetes symptoms or a very gradual development of the above symptoms of type 2 diabetes. In fact, about a third of all people who have type 2 diabetes don't know they have it.

Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Slow-healing sores or cuts
  • Itching of the skin (usually around the vaginal or groin area)
  • Frequent yeast infections
  • Recent weight gain
  • Velvety dark skin changes of the neck, armpit and groin, called acanthosis nigricans
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
  • Decreased vision
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction in men.
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