Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. We do not know what causes type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is associated with modifiable lifestyle risk factors. Type 2 diabetes also has strong genetic and family-related risk factors.

Type 2 diabetes:
Is diagnosed when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (reduced insulin production) and/or the insulin does not work effectively and/or the cells of the body do not respond to insulin effectively (known as insulin resistance)
Represents 85–90 percent of all cases of diabetes
Usually develops in adults over the age of 45 years but is increasingly occurring in younger age groups including children, adolescents, and young adults
Is more likely in people with a family history of type 2 diabetes or from particular ethnic backgrounds
For some, the first sign may be a complication of diabetes such as a heart attack, vision problems or a foot ulcer
Is managed with a combination of regular physical activity, healthy eating, and weight reduction.

What happens with type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes develops over a long period of time (years). During this period of time insulin resistance starts, this is where the insulin is increasingly ineffective at managing the blood glucose levels. As a result of this insulin resistance, the pancreas responds by producing greater and greater amounts of insulin, to try and achieve some degree of management of the blood glucose levels.

As insulin overproduction occurs over a very long period of time, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas wear themselves out, so that by the time someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they have lost 50 – 70% of their insulin-producing cells. This means type 2 diabetes is a combination of ineffective insulin and not enough insulin. When people refer to type 2 diabetes as a progressive condition they are referring to the ongoing destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

What causes type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes runs in the family. If you have a family member with diabetes, you have a genetic disposition to the condition.

While people may have a strong genetic disposition towards type 2 diabetes, the risk is greatly increased if people display a number of modifiable lifestyle factors including high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and the classic ‘apple shape’ body where extra weight is carried around the waist.

People are at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes if they:
have a family history of diabetes
are older (over 55 years of age ) - the risk increases as we age
are over 45 years of age and are overweight
are over 45 years of age and have high blood pressure
are over 35 years of age and are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
are over 35 years of age and are from Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background
are a woman who has given birth to a child over 4.5 kgs (9 lbs), or had gestational diabetes when pregnant, or had a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Many people with type 2 diabetes display no symptoms. As type 2 diabetes is commonly (but not always) diagnosed at a later age, sometimes signs are dismissed as a part of ‘getting older’. In some cases, by the time type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the complications of diabetes may already be present.

Symptoms include:
Being excessively thirsty
Passing more urine
Feeling tired and lethargic
Always feeling hungry
Having cuts that heal slowly
Itching, skin infections
Blurred vision
Gradually putting on weight
Mood swings
Feeling dizzy
Leg cramps