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The Call-On-Doc Guide to Type 2 Diabetes

Published on Apr 10, 2023 | 10:18 AM

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Type 2 diabetes mellitus, type 2 diabetes, or simply T2DM, is a chronic disease that affects millions of Americans. Once called adult-onset, the official name for the condition has changed due to cases rising in both children and teens. According to the CDC, over 90% of the 37 million diabetes cases are classified as type 2. 

For many, there is a ton of confusion surrounding type 2 diabetes, with many cases having no knowledge they actually have it. This guide gives you a basic understanding of type 2 diabetes and how to help yourself or loved ones when diagnosed.

What are the first warning signs of type 2 diabetes?

More often than not, some people don't realize they are experiencing symptoms of diabetes.  According to the American Diabetes Association, some people don’t notice the condition and can go on for a while without realizing they have mild symptoms. Such symptoms most often include:

  • blurred vision
  • dry mouth
  • frequent thirst
  • Difficulty focusing
  • constant hunger
  • reduced muscle bulk
  • slow healing
  • unexpected weight loss
  • dark skin patches
  • diabetic blisters
  • frequent skin infections
  • numb/tingling extremities
  • frequent need to urinate
  • low libido
  • erectile dysfunction
  • vaginal dryness

When left untreated, symptoms become more severe, with the most common being: blurry vision, slow healing cuts or wounds and tingling or numbness in your hands and/or feet. According to WebMD, a particularly noteworthy symptom that should alert you is the appearance of dark patches or rashes (acanthosis nigricans) in places like:

  • Armpits
  • Groin
  • Neck
  • Shins

According to Statpearls, the symptom causes the top layer (epidermal) of skin cells to overproduce and typically indicates your body is overproducing or not properly absorbing insulin. This and other symptoms appear depending on their cause. 

what-are-the-first-warning-signs-of-type-2-diabetes

What causes diabetes type 2 symptoms?

Each symptom associated with type 2 diabetes has a different root cause. By understanding the symptoms to look out for as well as the cause of each symptom, you will be better equipped to notice signs of diabetes in yourself and others.

  • Blurred vision: According to the CDC, patients with type 2 diabetes can develop a condition called diabetic retinopathy. One of the leading causes of blindness in working-age adults, the condition is defined by high blood sugar levels, eventually damaging blood vessels inside of the eyes. 
  • Dry mouth: High blood sugar levels from type 2 diabetes can cause your body to excrete more urine, which can lead to dehydration. As the body tries to flush out the excess glucose, it also removes fluids from the body, leading to increased thirst. In addition, the type 2 diabetes symptom can also cause an increase in insulin levels, which can cause the kidneys to retain more sodium, leading to increased thirst. 
  • Hard to focus: It can be hard to focus with type 2 diabetes because high blood sugar levels can affect the functions of the brain, causing cognitive impairment, difficulties with concentration, and loss of memory. This can occur when the brain does not receive enough glucose, which is its primary source of energy, or when high levels of glucose in the blood damage the blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen and nutrients.
  • Dark skin patches: Canthosis nigricans are often seen in people with type 2 diabetes, as well as in those who are overweight or obese. The symptom is believed to be caused by the buildup of insulin in parts of the body that results in velvety patches of skin.
  • Diabetic blisters: Also known as bullosis diabeticorum or diabetic bullae, can show up in people with type 2 diabetes because high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves, leading to poor circulation and reduced sensation in the skin. This can cause the skin to become more vulnerable to injury and infection, and in some cases, it can lead to the formation of fluid-filled blisters that can be painful and slow to heal. 
  • Frequent skin infections: High blood sugar levels, poor circulation, and reduced sensation in the skin can also provide a favorable environment for the growth of bacteria and fungi, which can lead to skin infections such as boils, abscesses, cellulitis, and fungal infections.
  • Tingling/Numb hands and feet: Diabetes type 2 can lead to tingling and numbness in the feet and hands because high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves that transmit signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. The nerves in the feet and hands are often the first to be affected by diabetic neuropathy, leading to symptoms such as tingling, numbness, burning, and pain. In addition, poor circulation and reduced sensation in the feet and hands, which can occur in people with type 2 diabetes, can also contribute to nerve damage and neuropathy. 
  • Constant hunger: People with type 2 diabetes may feel constantly hungry because insulin resistance can prevent the body's cells from effectively using glucose for energy. This can lead to high blood sugar levels, which can trigger the release of more insulin in an attempt to bring blood sugar levels back down. However, this excess insulin can also cause hunger by stimulating the appetite and promoting the storage of fat. In addition, medications used to treat type 2 diabetes, such as sulfonylureas, can also cause low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), which can trigger hunger and cravings for sugary foods.
  • Reduced muscle bulk: Type 2 diabetes can cause reduced muscle bulk because high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves that control muscle movement and function. This can lead to a condition called diabetic neuropathy, which can result in muscle weakness, atrophy, and loss of muscle mass. In addition, insulin resistance can prevent the body's cells from effectively using glucose for energy, which can lead to muscle breakdown and loss of muscle mass.
  • Slow healing: High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and impair blood flow, which can slow down the delivery of oxygen and nutrients needed for healing. In addition, poor circulation, nerve damage, and other complications associated with type 2 diabetes can also contribute to slow healing. 
  • Unexpected weight loss: People with type 2 diabetes may lose weight due to a few reasons. Firstly, insulin resistance can prevent the body's cells from effectively using glucose for energy, leading to high blood sugar levels. In response, the body may start breaking down fat and muscle tissue to use as an alternative source of energy, leading to weight loss. Secondly, increased urination and thirst, which are common symptoms of type 2 diabetes, can cause a loss of fluids and electrolytes, leading to weight loss. Lastly, some medications used to treat type 2 diabetes, such as metformin, can cause weight loss as a side effect.
  • Frequent need to urinate: People with type 2 diabetes may need to urinate more frequently because high blood sugar levels can cause the kidneys to filter and excrete excess glucose into the urine. This leads to increased urine production and a need to urinate more often, especially at night. In addition, high blood sugar levels can cause dehydration, which can make the kidneys work harder to filter the blood and produce more urine. 
  • Low libido: People with type 2 diabetes may experience low libido due to a few reasons. Firstly, high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves that are essential for sexual function, leading to decreased sensitivity and arousal. This can cause problems with erectile dysfunction in men and reduced lubrication and vaginal dryness in women. Secondly, diabetes can lead to hormonal imbalances, including low testosterone levels in men and low estrogen levels in women, which can also contribute to reduced libido. Lastly, other complications associated with type 2 diabetes, such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue, can also contribute to decreased sexual desire.
  • Vaginal dryness: According to a 2013 study, type 2 diabetes can lead to vaginal dryness due to a few reasons. Firstly, high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves that are essential for sexual function, leading to decreased sensitivity and arousal. This can cause reduced lubrication and vaginal dryness in women, making sexual activity uncomfortable or painful. Secondly, diabetes can lead to hormonal imbalances, including low estrogen levels, which can also contribute to vaginal dryness. This occurs because estrogen helps to maintain the thickness and moisture of the vaginal lining, and a decrease in estrogen levels can cause the vaginal tissue to become thin and dry. Lastly, some medications used to treat type 2 diabetes, such as metformin, can cause side effects that lead to vaginal dryness. 

Can you have type 2 diabetes without symptoms?

Yes, it is possible to have no type 2 diabetes symptoms or very mild symptoms that may not be noticed. Much like hypertension, the condition develops over time, and many people may not realize they have it until routine blood tests reveal high blood sugar levels. Additionally, some people may experience symptoms that are easily dismissed or attributed to other causes, such as fatigue, frequent urination, or thirst, which can be mistaken for normal aging or other health conditions.

can-you-have-type-2-diabetes-without-symptoms

What is the major cause of diabetes?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, lifestyle, your body’s gradual resistance to insulin, and the genes passed onto you all play a role. While genetics can play a larger role in a person's susceptibility to developing type 2 diabetes, how a person lives and what they consume will often be key in the development of the condition. For example, those who have a diet high in sugar and exercise less, if at all, are more susceptible. 

Is type 2 diabetes only caused by sugar?

No, sugar is not the only dietary type 2 diabetes cause. While consuming excessive amounts of sugar and sugary drinks can contribute to the development of the condition, it is not solely responsible. Here are many of the factors we know of that contribute to type 2 diabetes symptoms in women and men.

  • Excessive alcohol: The regular intake of alcohol is another common type 2 diabetes cause. Alcohol consumption comes with multiple negatives related to diabetes, especially when it comes to the liver, hypoglycemia, and insulin resistance developed over time. The effects can especially be bad with drinks that are high in calories and sugar. 
  • Improper sleep: Believe it or not, lack of sleep can contribute to type 2 diabetes. Without the appropriate amount of sleep, your body causes changes in your hormone levels and when you are sleep deprived your body becomes less able to produce insulin. According to the CDC, the contribution is one of the main causes, as less than the recommended seven hours can create a sustainable environment for the condition inside your body. 
  • Obesity: Obesity is a major type 2 diabetes cause, as excess body fat can cause insulin resistance, making it difficult for the body to regulate blood sugar levels. That is due to fat cells releasing cytokines and other molecules that can interfere with insulin signaling. Additionally, obesity can lead to chronic inflammation, damaging the pancreas and impairing insulin production.
  • Lack of exercise: Exercise is how your body regulates your blood sugar levels and remains healthy for the long term. Not doing so can be a significant type 2 diabetes cause, as not getting some kind of exercise daily will naturally make your body reduce muscle mass. We recommend staying in motion every day for at least one hour, with the best result coming from moderate-intensity exercises during that daily period.  
  • Poor diet: A more direct type 2 diabetes cause comes from diets rich in sugar, processed foods, and saturated fats. Additionally, diets that lack fiber while featuring high carbohydrate intake cause spikes in blood sugar levels. 
  • Smoking: Another cause of type 2 diabetes comes from smoking as it impairs insulin sensitivity, and increases inflammation throughout the respiratory system due to how it facilitates infections. Not only does this make allergies and respiratory infections more severe, but it inhibits oxygen flow throughout the body and makes it easier for type 2 diabetes to develop.
  • Stress: Stress is a type 2 diabetes cause due to increased cortisol and other stress hormones usually regulated by the body. 
  • Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body's cells are unable to use it effectively, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Over time, the pancreas may become overworked and less able to produce insulin, leading to further increases in blood sugar levels and eventually resulting in diabetes.
  • Family history: Similar to many other conditions, genetics play a role in the development of the condition. If a person has a family history of type 2 diabetes or is prone to behaviors that cause it, they may inherit genes that increase their risk of developing the condition.

What foods trigger diabetes?

  • Sugary foods and drinks: These include soft drinks, fruit juices, candy, pastries, and other sweets that are high in added sugars.
  • Refined carbohydrates: These include white bread, white rice, and pasta made from refined flour, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Saturated and trans fats: These are commonly found in fried foods, baked goods, and processed snacks, and can contribute to insulin resistance and inflammation.
  • Processed and packaged foods: These are often high in calories, salt, and unhealthy fats, and can contain added sugars and artificial ingredients that can contribute to weight gain and diabetes.
  • Red meat: Red meat consumption has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes due to its high content of saturated and trans fats, heme iron, and advanced glycation end products, which can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, leading to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism.
  • Processed meat: Processed meat consumption has been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes due to its high content of saturated fat, sodium, and nitrites, which can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, contributing to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism.

It is important to note that while these foods may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, consuming them in moderation as part of a balanced diet is not necessarily harmful. However, a diet that is high in these types of foods and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

How is diabetes type 2 diagnosed?

According to the CDC, how type 2 diabetes is diagnosed is through a series of blood tests and physical examinations. A fasting plasma glucose test measures blood sugar levels after a period of fasting, while an oral glucose tolerance test measures blood sugar levels after consuming a sugary drink. A hemoglobin A1C test measures average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. 

If the results of these tests indicate high blood sugar levels, a healthcare provider may perform additional tests and examinations to confirm a diagnosis. These may include a urine test, a physical exam, and a review of symptoms and medical history.

What is the best indicator of type 2 diabetes?

The hemoglobin A1C test is considered one of the best tests to run by healthcare providers for their patients due to the amount of time it takes. If you believe you or a loved one is at risk for diabetes, you can request an in-person or at-home test with Call-On-Doc.

What is the best way to monitor type 2 diabetes?

According to the American Diabetes Association, the best way to monitor type 2 diabetes is to regularly check blood sugar levels with a glucose meter. The frequency of testing may vary depending on individual circumstances, but most people with type 2 diabetes are advised to check their blood sugar levels at least once a day, usually before or after a meal.

What is the best treatment for diabetes type 2?

The best treatment for type 2 diabetes typically involves lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, monitoring blood sugar levels, and taking medications provided or recommended by your healthcare provider. For an easy way to manage your treatment plan, Call-On-Doc offers a diabetes subscription with automatic prescription refills ready when you need it.

Can I treat type 2 diabetes myself?

While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, you can manage the condition with lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and weight management. However, it's important to work with your healthcare provider to create a personalized treatment plan and monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. Additionally, you may need medication and insulin that can only be received by going through a healthcare provider. 

Self-treatment is not recommended, as diabetes can lead to serious complications if left unmanaged.

What foods help fix diabetes?

There is no single food that can fix diabetes, but a balanced and healthy diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats can help manage blood sugar levels and improve overall health. Some specific foods that may help manage blood sugar levels include leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish, and low-fat dairy products.

Can type 2 diabetes be reversed?

If found early, type 2 diabetes can be reversed. Some cases can also be put into remission through lifestyle changes such as weight loss, regular exercise, and healthy eating. However, it is important to note that not everyone with type 2 diabetes can achieve remission. Even for those that do, they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

How can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise helps in weight control, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Follow a healthy diet: A healthy diet, rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Limit sugary and processed foods: Consuming too much sugar and processed foods increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking increases the risk of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
  • Manage stress: Stress can affect blood sugar levels and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Get enough sleep: Getting enough restful sleep can help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Regular health check-ups: Regular health check-ups can help in early detection and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol in excess can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Know your family history: People with a family history of diabetes are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so it is essential to stay vigilant and take preventive measures.

When it comes to type 2 diabetes treatment, the Call-On-Doc team is ready to help you. We have a variety of solutions that make taking on the condition easy and affordable!

Source:

  1. “Type 2 Diabetes | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/about/about-type-2-diabetes.html.
  2. “Type 2 Diabetes - Symptoms | ADA.” American Diabetes Association, https://diabetes.org/about-diabetes/type-2.
  3. “Diabetes and Vision Loss | Diabetes | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/diabetes-complications/diabetes-and-vision-loss.html.
  4. Omidvar, Shabnam. “Sexual dysfunction among women with diabetes mellitus in a diabetic center in Amol.” NCBI, Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine vol. 4,2, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783773/.
  5. “Symptoms & Causes of Diabetes - NIDDK.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-causes.
  6. “Sleep for a Good Cause | Diabetes | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/php/toolkits/new-beginnings-sleep-health.html.
  7. “Diabetes Tests | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/diabetes-testing/index.html.
  8. “The Big Picture: Checking Your Blood Glucose | ADA.” American Diabetes Association, https://diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-care/checking-your-blood-sugar .

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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