Not So Sweet: A Type 2 Diabetes Digest

Published January 1, 2022

photograph of a blood glucose monitor on arm and phone in hand

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that disrupts the way your body uses sugar, causing problems with the way your body stores and processes energy. The cells in your body use sugar for energy, and that sugar gets into your cells with the help of a hormone made in the pancreas called insulin. When there is not enough insulin available or if your body stops responding to insulin, it causes sugar to build up in the blood instead of getting to your cells. This can lead to many serious health issues.

What’s the difference between type 1 and 2?

The two most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops working. This is due to an autoimmune reaction in which the body attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, but it can develop at any time.

With the more common type 2 diabetes (often called hyperglycemia or high blood sugar), the body stops responding to insulin (also called insulin resistance). As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin. Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, causing your blood sugar to rise.

How common is type 2 and why is it dangerous?

Diabetes is incredibly common, impacting about 10.5% of the American population. Of the 34 million Americans who have diabetes, about 90% of them have type 2 diabetes — and an estimated 8 million Americans don’t even know they have it! While most people develop type 2 diabetes after the age of 45, it can develop in younger patients.

Undiagnosed diabetes or uncontrolled diabetes can lead to high blood sugar levels. If levels of sugar remain high in the blood, it can lead to both short-term and long-term health problems, such as:

  • Loss of vision due to circulation problems
  • Higher risk of infection
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (a condition in which the body starts to produce ketones, which are blood acids that can result in severe electrolyte abnormalities that can be life-threatening)
  • Kidney damage from continually filtering excess blood sugar
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs or feet
  • Heart problems caused by circulation issues

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

While there’s no one specific cause of type 2 diabetes, we do know that a combination of genetic and environmental factors can increase a patient’s risk of developing it. These factors include:

  • Weight: Being obese or overweight is one of the biggest risk factors
  • Inactivity: Physical activity helps control weight and uses glucose as energy, so inactivity increases your risk
  • Age: The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases as you age, particularly after age 45
  • Family History: If you have a sibling or parent who has type 2 diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing it yourself
  • Unhealthy Diet: Eating an unhealthy diet can result in weight gain, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes

What are the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Many people don’t have any symptoms of type 2 diabetes before they are diagnosed, which means many people remain undiagnosed and never realize they have type 2 diabetes until it becomes severe. That’s why it’s important — especially if you have any of the risk factors above — to be screened for diabetes by your primary care physician.

Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are:

  • More frequent urination
  • Waking up to urinate more often at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time (due to more frequent urination)
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling more hungry
  • Vision changes, such as blurry vision

How do I manage type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes can feel like an overwhelming diagnosis, but it can be managed. Eating healthy and being active can help reduce risk of serious complications, or your primary care team may prescribe insulin or other medications to help manage your blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetics also need to get very familiar with 3 key numbers, and keep them in check:

  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Carbohydrate intake

Make regular appointments with your primary care provider to stay on track with your treatment plan and to get help with new ideas and strategies if needed.

Your Firefly team is here to help

We recently launched a diabetes clinical program to screen for and treat our patients with diabetes. We have a 95% enrollment rate into the program, which allows patients to receive a personalized care plan that clearly defines goals, and a partnership with their care team (which includes a consulting endocrinologist). 84% of those we have data for have their diabetes numbers in control!

Schedule a visit in the Firefly app today to discuss our unique approach to managing diabetes. Not a member yet? Get started by signing up on our website or giving us a call at (855) 869-9284.