Dr Tendai Zuze
Tuesday 14 November was World Diabetes Day which is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign meant to draw attention to the new global scourge that is diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolises glucose, your body’s main source of fuel.
With type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells — or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level. Untreated, type 2 diabetes can be life-threatening.
More common in adults, type 2 diabetes increasingly affects children as childhood obesity increases.
There’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, but you can manage the condition by eating well, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. If diet and exercise don’t control your blood sugar, you may need diabetes medications or insulin therapy.
Researchers don’t fully understand why some people develop type 2 diabetes and others don’t. It’s clear, however, that certain factors increase the risk, including:
- Weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
- Fat distribution. If your body stores fat primarily in your abdomen, your risk of diabetes is greater than if your body stores fat elsewhere, such as your hips and thighs.
- Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of diabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Family history. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases if your parent or sibling has diabetes.
- Race. Although it’s unclear why, people of certain races — including blacks and Asians — are more likely to develop diabetes than whites are.
- Age. The risk of diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45. That’s probably because people tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as they age. But diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents and younger adults.
- Prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Left untreated, prediabetes often progresses to type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes. If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of later developing diabetes increases. If you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 4 kilograms, you’re also at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes symptoms may develop slowly. In fact, you can have diabetes for years and not even know it. The following are common signs and symptoms of diabetes:
- Increased thirst and frequent urination. Excess sugar building up in your bloodstream causes fluid to be pulled from the tissues. This may leave you thirsty. As a result, you may drink — and urinate — more than usual.
- Increased hunger. Without enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted of energy. This triggers intense hunger.
- Weight loss. Despite eating more than usual to relieve hunger, you may lose weight. Without the ability to metabolise glucose, the body uses alternative fuels stored in muscle and fat. Calories are lost as excess glucose is released in the urine.
- Fatigue. If your cells are deprived of sugar, you may become tired and irritable.
- Blurred vision. If your blood sugar is too high, fluid may be pulled from the lenses of your eyes. This may affect your ability to focus clearly.
- Slow-healing sores or frequent infections. Type 2 diabetes affects your ability to heal and resist infections.
- Areas of darkened skin. Some people with type 2 diabetes have patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds and creases of their bodies — usually in the armpits and neck. This condition, called acanthosis nigricans, may be a sign of insulin resistance and diabetes.
If you think you might have diabetes please consult your doctor.