What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes with approximately 90% of people with diabetes having this type. The other form, type 1, makes up the remaining 10%.
Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, usually occurs in children and adults under the age of 30. It is believed to be caused by a viral infection, which in turn stimulates the immune system to fight the virus.
Unfortunately though, in susceptible people the immune system over-reacts and also attacks normal body cells (an auto-immune response). In this case, it attacks the beta cells of the pancreas rendering them ineffective and unable to produce insulin. This means that for the remainder of the person’s life insulin replacement therapy is necessary for survival.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is caused by someone initially having a genetic predisposition towards getting the disease and then engaging in lifestyle habits that induce the disease.
Type 2 diabetics have a condition known as ‘insulin resistance‘, and this means the insulin receptors on body cells have become resistant to the action of insulin, resulting in high blood glucose levels.
With reference to type 2 diabetes it is often said that genetics ‘loads the gun’ and environment ‘pulls the trigger’!
Initially people with type 2 diabetes can still produce insulin normally, but the insulin doesn’t work as it should due to the insulin resistance. Over time, however, in some people the beta cells in the pancreas (the cells responsible for making insulin) become exhausted and eventually stop working too. This then results in these people requiring daily insulin injections similar to type 1 diabetics.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, used to also be called, ‘adult-onset diabetes’, but with so many young people acquiring the condition, including children, this name has been dropped.
Since environmental factors (lifestyle) are the cause of diabetes type 2, the good news is that in almost all cases the condition is reversible by simply engaging in lifestyle activities that oppose the condition.
The term ‘diabetes’ itself means ‘to siphon’ and in the case of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus the high blood sugar levels result in some being excreted by the body through the kidneys. As a result, through osmosis, an excessive amount of water is also lost in the urine, hence the term, ‘to siphon’.
There are other forms of diabetes too, but they are far less common:
This is where a pregnant woman develops high blood sugar levels. It may be temporary and after the birth of the baby her blood sugar levels may return to normal. However, it may also precede type 2 diabetes.
This condition also results in the loss of an excessive amount of fluid but is completely unrelated to diabetes mellitus. It is due to an inability of the body to produce the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) or insensitivity in the kidneys to the hormone.