By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Type 2 diabetes is typically characterized by high blood sugar. The blood sugar is high because the insulin-induced uptake of glucose from the blood by various cells of the body is either reduced or absent. The progression of type 2 diabetes usually occurs gradually, over many years.
In some people, there may be no symptoms of type 2 diabetes until it has developed or progressed to a more severe extent. Some of the main symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
Polydipsia - increased thirst
Polyphagia - increased hunger
Polyuria - frequency of urination is increased, especially at night
Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
Tiredness and fatigue
Unexplained weight loss and muscle loss.
Diabetics are prone to infection because the high blood sugar provides a favourable growth medium for microbes. Diabetics are also less able to defend against these infections. Fungal infections of the vulva in females are common leading to itching and urinary tract infections may occur in both in men and women.
Diabetic individuals may also develop non-healing foot ulcers or sores which can turn gangrenous if left untreated.
Eventually, serious complications of the disease may arise and affect various bodily systems. For example, the following may develop:
"Floaters" or floating dark spots in the field of vision may occur as a result of damage caused to the retina by an inadequate supply of nutrients and oxygen by blood vessels. This occurs due to the microvascular changes that diabetes causes in the eye.
This refers to the nerve damage caused by diabetes which may lead to tingling, pain or numbness in affected areas. Usually, the peripheries such as the toes and fingers are the first to be affected.
The autonomic nervous system may also be affected causing disorder of bodily systems such as the digestive, reproductive and urinary systems.
The risks of heart disease is also raised in diabetic individuals which increases the likelihood of heart attacks, heart failure, high blood pressure and stroke.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc