Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease characterized by elevated blood glucose (sugar). All the cells in the body need glucose. Sugar gets into the cells with the help of insulin. If there is not enough insulin or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. This is what happens to people with diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 is the most frequent type of diabetes. It is characterized by elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance and also a relative impairment in insulin production. Insulin is created in the beta cell of the pancreas. Several studies show that many people have lost about 80 percent of their pancreatic beta cell function before the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes is much higher in relatives of a person with diabetes compared with a person with no family history of diabetes. The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is greater in people of Hispanic, African, and Asian descent.
The most important environmental risk factors in most patients who develop type 2 diabetes are increased weight gain and decreased physical activity. The mechanism by which obesity induces insulin resistance is poorly understood.
There are other medical problems associated with diabetes, such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and obesity. This constellation of clinical conditions is called metabolic syndrome.
Before being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, most people have no symptoms at all. Once there are symptoms they may include: increased thirst, frequent urination, generalized weakness, blurry vision and unexplained weight loss.
Symptoms of diabetes and/or a fasting blood sugar of greater than 125 or a hemoglobin A1C greater than 6.4 means that the patient has diabetes.
Although type 2 diabetes cause no symptoms for many years. It starts damaging body tissues and organs before a diagnosis is made.
The most serious consequences of an uncontrolled diabetes are:
- Heart attack
- Renal failure
- Peripheral artery disease leading to foot or leg amputation
The treatment of type 2 diabetes include first and foremost changes in lifestyle such as a healthy diet, weight reduction, and increase in physical activity. There is a wide variety of oral diabetes medications. A few patients with type 2 diabetes will need to use insulin.