Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Type 2 diabetes begins insidiously and, if left untreated, leads to serious complications. But with the right diet and exercise, blood sugar levels can be significantly improved.

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most widespread diseases in industrialized countries. In Germany alone, doctors treat around eight million people with diabetes. A distinction is made between type 1 and type 2, with the latter in particular being considered a disease of affluence – over 90 percent of all diabetics suffer from it. Significantly fewer of all “diabetics” are affected by type 1 diabetes. While this type often occurs in childhood and adolescence, it is primarily adults over the age of 40 who are diagnosed by doctors with type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes develops gradually

According to estimates from 2012, 7.2 percent of the population in Germany have known diabetes and an additional 2.1 percent have undiscovered diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually develops gradually and can go unnoticed for years. That is exactly what is insidious: the body notes every single excess of sugar (“sugar memory”) and years later presents the consequences, such as nerve damage or circulatory disorders, especially in the lower legs and feet. A feared long-term consequence is a diabetic foot with ulcers and wounds that no longer heal.

Cause: Pancreas overloaded by too many carbohydrates

The tendency to type 2 diabetes is hereditary. However, not everyone who is predisposed to this carbohydrate metabolism disorder actually develops it. The so-called affluence syndrome is decisive for the outbreak of the disease: Too much food coupled with too little exercise promotes insulin resistance.

If you provide your body with many portions of easily digestible carbohydrates, the pancreas will keep in constant operation. Insulin-resistant people have more insulin in their blood than healthy people, but the body can no longer accommodate the oversupply of sugar in the tissue. The constantly increased insulin level has an effect elsewhere: the body stores fatter – this leads to obesity, and a frequent precursor or concomitant disease of diabetes is fatty liver. Dangerous deposits form in the vessels. If there is also a lack of exercise, i.e. hardly any blood sugar is used by the muscles as energy, then insulin resistance can progress particularly quickly.

In the worst case, the pancreas will eventually stop working altogether.

Symptoms nonspecific at first

General malaise and exhaustion are the first signs that the ingested food energy (carbohydrates/sugar) is not reaching the body cells due to insulin resistance. But who goes to see a doctor right away? The chances of recovery at this stage (prediabetes) are still excellent. When the diagnosis of “type 2 diabetes” is made, there is often already consequential damage to the cardiovascular system.

Diabetes is also popularly known as sugar disease and thus already names the main symptom: detection of sugar in the urine. If the blood sugar concentration is significantly too high, the body excretes sugar through the urine. Other signs of advanced type 2 diabetes:

  • thirst
  • frequent urination
  • Growth failure, bedwetting, weight loss (in children)
  • Fatigue, weakness, dizziness
  • Deterioration of vision, changing eyesight
  • dry skin, itching
  • alternating loss of appetite and hunger pangs
  • Impotence/loss of libido
  • muscle cramps
  • nerve diseases
  • poorly healing wounds, especially on the feet
  • nausea, abdominal pain
  • urinary tract infections
  • Menstrual disorders reduced fertility in women
  • Mental changes such as aggressive behavior

Diagnosis by blood sugar tests

First, the blood sugar is determined in the doctor’s office. A distinction is made between fasting blood sugar and occasional blood sugar. Normal fasting blood sugar is no more than 100 milligrams per deciliter. Prediabetes can be present with fasting blood sugar levels of up to 125 milligrams per deciliter. If the values ​​are even higher, diabetes mellitus is suspected. In addition, a glucose tolerance test is carried out and the so-called long-term blood sugar is determined: The glyco-hemoglobin (so to speak “saccharified” blood pigment) provides information about the average blood sugar concentration for the past eight to twelve weeks.

If diabetes mellitus is diagnosed, the fundus of the eye, urine, blood pressure, nerves, and feet must be examined and the blood lipid and kidney values ​​must be determined.

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