In Australia, type 2 diabetes affects 85 to 90 per cent of all people with diabetes with over 1 million people registered as having the condition.
Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. The body uses glucose as its main source of energy. Glucose comes from foods that contain carbohydrates, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, fruit and milk. After food is digested, the glucose is released and absorbed into the bloodstream.
The glucose in the bloodstream needs to move into body tissues so that cells can use it for energy. Excess glucose is stored in the liver or converted to fat and stored in other body tissues.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. Insulin lowers blood glucose levels by moving glucose from the blood into the muscle cells. It also helps glucose to be stored in the liver and in other tissues.
There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body's immune cells attack the insulin-producing cells. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and need insulin injections to survive.
With type 2 diabetes, the cells don't respond to insulin properly (insulin resistance) and the pancreas does not produce enough insulin for the body's increased needs. If the insulin cannot do its job, the glucose channels do not open properly. Glucose builds up in the blood instead of getting into cells for energy.
Research shows that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed with early lifestyle changes.
What to look for
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
High blood glucose levels often cause signs and symptoms. Common signs and symptoms include:
- being more thirsty than usual
- passing more urine
- feeling tired and lethargic
- slow-healing wounds
- recurring infection
- blurred vision.
Some people may have no symptoms and as a result diagnosis may be delayed. Sometimes, even if symptoms are present, they may not be recognised or may just be thought to be due to getting older.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
There are genetic and environmental risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
Those most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:
- people with pre-diabetes
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 35 and over
- people aged 35 and over who are Pacific Islanders, Maori, Asian (including the Indian subcontinent, or of Chinese origin) Middle Eastern, North African or Southern European
- people aged 45 and over who are overweight, have high blood pressure or have a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes
- all people with cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, angina, stroke, or narrowed blood vessels
- women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who are overweight
- women who have had gestational diabetes
- people aged 55 or over
- people with a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes
- people taking certain antipsychotic medication or corticosteroid medication.
Lifestyle risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
- being overweight, especially around the waist
- low levels of physical activity, including more than two hours of television watching per day
- unhealthy eating habits, such as regularly choosing high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt or low-fibre foods
- cigarette smoking
- high blood pressure and cholesterol.
You can assess your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by completing the Australian type 2 diabetes risk test here.
Management of type 2 diabetes
The aim of diabetes treatment is to keep you as well as possible, and reduce the risk of damage to various parts of your body that can happen over time.
Managing blood glucose levels
Maintain blood glucose levels within the recommended range. You can help keep your blood glucose levels as near as possible to normal by:
- eating healthily
- achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- doing regular physical activity, including sitting less.
- Glucose-lowering medications, and insulin, may also be needed to manage blood glucose levels.
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- Your diabetes specialist
- Diabetes healthcare team
Better Health Channel, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/diabetes-type-2
Health Direct, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/diabetes-types