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Ask A Doctor... What is Type 2 Diabetes?

November 11, 2016 | By Lisa Schwenk
Published in: Diabetes, Question Answer

Two of five Americans will develop Type 2 Diabetes in their lifetime

Nelly Maybee, MD
Nelly Maybee, MD

Answer provided by Nelly Maybee, MD, endocrinologist at the Augusta Health Diabetes & Endocrinology Clinic.

Dr. Maybee attended medical school at the University of Maryland and completed her residency and fellowship at the University of Virginia. She is Board-Certified in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism and Internal Medicine. In addition to English, she speaks Russian and recently was awarded the 2016 Best Bedside Manner Award in Endocrinology by Our Health Magazine.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are diseases related to the problem of hyperglycemia, or high levels of blood sugar. In Type 1 Diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Type 2 Diabetes, which is more common than Type 1, is a chronic disease that is typically associated with insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. With insulin resistance, your body does not use insulin properly. Diabetes is a serious disease. Its complications include eye disease, kidney disease and nerve damage in the feet.

Type 2 Diabetes typically occurs in adults, and is often associated with obesity. Recently, and possibly because of the spreading obesity epidemic, cases of children as young as 5 years old have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, or medications (oral medications, non-insulin injectables and insulin).

Diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes typically occurs when a primary care physician orders screening blood work. A fasting blood sugar above 125 mg/dl on two more occasions is consistent with Type 2 Diabetes. Another test that is used for monitoring diabetes control is called a Hemoglobin A1c. This blood work is usually checked every 3 months and should be less than 7%

If the Hemoglobin A1c is greater than 7%, despite best efforts to control diabetes, it may be helpful to see an endocrinologist. An endocrinologist is a physician who specializes in treating diabetes. Nutritionists and diabetes educators play a key role in diabetes management as well.

The most important thing someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes can do to manage his or her condition is to implement lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise. Cutting down on sweets, sugary drinks, processed carbohydrates and fast food is essential. Meeting with a nutritionist/diabetes educator is also strongly encouraged.

It is also important for diabetics to include a dilated yearly eye exam as part of their care. Feet should be self-examined every day, especially if sensation is compromised. Kidney tests can be obtained through blood work and is usually monitored by her physician.

Depending on how difficult it is to control diabetes mellitus, a patient may need to be testing his or her blood sugars once a day or as much as three to four times a day, depending on physician recommendation. It is also very important to take any medications for diabetes as prescribed. Different medications produce different side effects, and this should be discussed with the physician. Some medications can help one lose weight, while other medications can lead to weight gain, which can complicate diabetes management as well.

There are several classes available to help with Diabetes Self-Management. With good management, those with diabetes can feel well and prevent more serious complications.