What is type 2
When you have
type 2 diabetes, your body does not make
enough insulin or is unable to use insulin
properly. This problem with insulin affects
the level of sugar in your blood.
Insulin is a
hormone produced by the pancreas. (The
pancreas is the large gland that lies behind
the stomach.) When you digest food, your
body breaks down much of the food into sugar
(glucose). Your blood carries the sugar to
the cells of your body for energy. Insulin
helps the sugar leave the bloodstream and
enter the cells. This is how insulin lowers
the level of sugar in your blood.
body does not have enough insulin or has
trouble using insulin, the cells of your
body do not absorb enough sugar from your
blood. As a result, you have high levels of
sugar in your blood. When you have too much
sugar in your blood, many problems may begin
to occur. These problems can be
life-threatening if they are not treated.
However, proper treatment can control your
diabetes occurs mostly in adults over age
40, especially overweight adults. Overweight
children and adolescents can also have this
type of diabetes. More people are becoming
diabetic as more people become overweight.
million people in the U.S. are diabetic. The
highest rates of type 2 diabetes in America
are among native Americans, Hispanics, and
How does it occur?
cause of type 2 diabetes is not known,
although age and weight appear to be
factors. As people become older or
overweight, they are more likely to have
diabetes. Cells in the body become unable to
use the insulin made by the pancreas.
Heredity is also an important factor.
have given birth to large babies (for
example, babies weighing 9 pounds or more),
or have had diabetes of pregnancy
(gestational diabetes), have a higher risk
of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
What are the
diabetes may cause the following symptoms:
and the drinking of a lot of fluids
weight gain or loss
of prickling, burning, or itching of the
skin, usually on the hands or feet
infections of the
foreskin in uncircumcised men
have no symptoms.
How is it
care provider will ask about your symptoms
and test the level of sugar in your blood.
If your morning fasting blood sugar (before
breakfast) is above 126 milligrams per
deciliter (mg/dL), you are diabetic.
another test called a glucose tolerance test
is done. For this test a sample of your
blood is taken when you have not eaten
anything since the night before. Then you
drink a sugar drink and your blood is tested
2 hours later. If after 2 hours your blood
sugar level is over 200 mg/dL, you are
How is it treated?
The goal of
treatment is to control the level of sugar
in your blood. You want to try to keep it in
the same range as a nondiabetic person. This
is done by:
blood sugar regularly
You will keep
a log of your blood sugar measurements. Your
health care provider will check the log to
see how well your treatment is working.
Also, a test called a hemoglobin-a-1- c can
tell you and your provider what your average
blood sugar has been over the previous 3
care provider or a dietitian will give you
clear guidelines about which foods you
should eat and how many calories you should
eat each day. If you are overweight, the
main treatment is to eat less. Limiting the
calories in your diet will help you lose
weight. Losing even 7 to 10 pounds can
reduce or eliminate your need to take
medication for diabetes.
activity is important in managing type 2
diabetes. Exercise improves your circulation
and uses up more sugar in your blood.
Walking is one of the best exercises you can
do. Ask your health care provider for
If you can't
control your blood sugar with diet and
exercise, your health care provider will
prescribe medicine to lower your blood
sugar. You may need more than one type of
medicine to keep your blood sugar in the
normal range. If oral medicine doesn't lower
your sugar level enough, your provider will
prescribe insulin shots. You will learn how
to measure your dose, clean your skin, and
give yourself shots.
How long will the
more and not overeating can often help the
body restore its balance of sugar and
insulin. You may or may not need to continue
taking medicine. Your improvement depends on
following the diet and exercise plans
prescribed by your health care provider to
keep your blood sugar in the recommended
How can I take
care of myself?
care of yourself to avoid complications is
especially important with diabetes. Possible
diabetic complications include heart
disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure,
and nerve damage, especially to your feet
and legs. Carefully controlling your blood
sugar will delay or prevent these
Learn how to make
healthy choices when you eat out
Ask for diabetic
meals when you travel (for instance, at
hotels or on planes)
Drink water or
other noncaloric drinks when you have
the urge to eat between meals
Limit the amount of
alcohol you drink
Buy only the types
of food included in your diet plan
Eat on a regular
Eat slowly and chew
your food thoroughly
health care provider's advice for physical
follow the instructions your health care
provider has given you for taking any
medicine he or she has prescribed.
you can do are:
Learn how to do
proper skin and foot care every day
identification that says you have
diabetes, in case of an emergency
diabetes and its complications so you can
make the correct decisions to control your
blood-sugar levels. Many hospitals have
diabetes educators and dietitians who can
help you. Ask your health care provider to
refer you to these people.
You can get
pamphlets and information about diabetes,
including diabetic cookbooks, from:
American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
What can I help
prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus?
Even if there
is a history of diabetes in your family, you
may be able to avoid developing the disease
according to your health care provider's
Eat a healthy diet
Phyllis G. Cooper, R.N., M.N., and Clinical
Published by Clinical Reference Systems, a
division of HBO & Company.
Copyright © 1998 Clinical Reference Systems
content provided by iMcKesson, LLC
Review Date: 2/7/2001