Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms, Signs, Diet, and Treatment

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Reviewer: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Type 2 Diabetes Diet Plans

Diet recommendations for people with type 2 diabetes include a

  • vegetarian or vegan diet,
  • the American Diabetes Association diet (which also emphasizes exercise),
  • the Paleo Diet, and
  • the Mediterranean diet.

Type 2 diabetes definition and facts

  • Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which cells cannot use blood sugar (glucose) efficiently for energy. This happens when the cells become insensitive to insulin and the blood sugar gradually gets too high.
  • There are two types of diabetes mellitus, type 1 and type 2. In type 2, the pancreas still makes insulin, but the cells cannot use it very efficiently. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot make insulin due to auto-immune destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells.
  • Type 2 can be caused by:
  • Risk factors include:
    • Having family members with diabetes
    • Being overweight
    • Being sedentary including watching more than 2 hours of TV per day
    • Drinking soda
    • Consuming too much sugar and processed food
  • The signs and symptoms of this type of this type of diabetes are sometimes subtle. The major symptom is often being overweight. Other symptoms and signs include:
    • Excess thirst
    • Urinating a lot
    • Gaining or losing weight unintentionally
    • Dark skin under armpits, chin, or groin
    • Fatigue
    • Unusual odor to urine
    • Blurry vision
  • Often there are no specific symptoms of the condition and it goes undiagnosed until routine blood tests are ordered.
  • A blood sugar level more than 125 when fasting or more than 200 randomly is a diagnosis for diabetes.
  • Treatment is with diet and lifestyle changes that include eating less sugary foods, and foods that are high in simple carbohydrates (sugar, bread, and pasta.)
  • Sometimes a person will need to take drugs, for example, metformin (Glucophage).
  • People with both types of diabetes need monitor their blood sugar levels often to avoid high (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
  • Complications include heart and kidney disease, neuropathy, sexual and/or urinary problems, foot problems, and eye problems.
  • This health condition can be prevented by following a low glycemic load diet, staying physically active, and getting regular medical screenings.
  • The prognosis for a person with this health condition is estimated to be a life expectancy of 10 years less than a person without diabetes. However, good blood sugar control and taking steps to prevent complications is shortening this gap and people with the condition are living longer than ever before. It can be reversed with diligent attention to changing lifestyle behaviors.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It is a chronic problem in which blood glucose (sugar) can no longer be regulated. There are two reasons for this. First, the cells of the body become resistant to insulin (insulin resistant). Insulin works like a key to let glucose (blood sugar) move out of the blood and into the cells where it is used as fuel for energy. When the cells become insulin resistant, it requires more and more insulin to move sugar into the cells, and too much sugar stays in the blood. Over time, if the cells require more and more insulin, the pancreas can't make enough insulin to keep up and begins to fail.

What is the difference between type 2 and type 1 diabetes?

  • If you have type 2, you can lower high blood sugar levels with diet, exercise, and oral drugs that either make the body more sensitive to insulin or help the pancreas release more insulin.
  • In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot make any insulin and people have to depend on injections of insulin to lower blood sugar.
  • Over time, people with type 2 also can require insulin. This happens when the pancreas "wears out."

What causes type 2 diabetes, and is it reversible?

This type of diabetes is caused by a combination of genetics and unhealthy lifestyle habits.

  • Some ethnic groups have a higher inherited incidence of it. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific islanders are all at increased risk.
  • Other causes include unhealthy lifestyle habits, for example, if you:
    • Eat too much sugar and carbohydrates
    • Eat or drink foods with artificial sweeteners
    • Don't get enough exercise
    • Are under chronic, high stress

As mentioned previously, this disease can be reversed with diligent attention to changing lifestyle behaviors.

Who gets type 2 diabetes (risk factors)?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes are:

What lifestyle factors affect my chances of getting this type of diabetes?

Lifestyle habits can contribute to a person developing the disease, for example:

  • If you are overweight or obese
  • If you are sedentary (you don't exercise and are not physically active)
  • If you watch more than 2 hours of TV per day.
  • If you drink artificially sweetened or sugar sweetened products. These products increase your risk by 26%-67%.
  • Economic stress. People who live in the lowest-income circumstances have two and a half times greater the risk of developing the disease.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/21/2017

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