Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for nearly ninety-five percent of all cases of diabetes and affects over fifty million Americans, is largely seen in adults over the age of 40. Today, however, it is also being seen more and more at younger ages, and even in quite young children.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are often quite mild in the early stages of the condition and it is possible to suffer from type 2 diabetes for many months, or even years, before it is diagnosed. It is however a potentially serious condition and undiagnosed type 2 diabetes can lead to several serious complications including renal failure, blindness, the inability of wounds to heal and coronary artery disease.
Estimates indicate that about one in five adults above the age of 65 in the United States suffers from type 2 diabetes. The condition is more common amongst Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics and Non-Hispanic Whites and is slightly more common in older women than in men.
The origin of type 2 diabetes is a mystery and, while it is thought that there is a genetic component to the disease this is much less clearly evident than it is in the case of type 1 diabetes. Evidence does however clearly show that environmental factors play a large part in the development of type 2 diabetes and this is particularly true in the case of obesity, a lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle.
Many people believe that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same thing and that the difference lies simply in the name, with type 1 diabetes being used when referring to the disease childhood and type 2 diabetes being used for adults. This in not however the case and, while there are some similarities, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are quite separate conditions and require very different forms of treatment.
In the case of type 1 diabetes the body is unable to produce insulin, which is needed for the transfer of glucose (the body's main source of energy) from the blood into the muscles and other cells of the body. In the case of type 2 diabetes the problem is not that the body cannot produce insulin, although in certain cases insulin production may be low, but that the body becomes resistant to insulin.
There is presently no cure for type 2 diabetes which is a chronic condition and treatment is therefore designed to manage the disease to lower the incidence of complications (many of which can be life-threatening). Treatment is also aimed at maintaining a good quality of life for the sufferer.
Initially, patients with type 2 diabetes are treated using a carefully designed program of diet and exercise (including a weight loss plan where this is needed) and this can be very effective in controlling levels of glucose within the blood and can often improve a patient's sensitivity to insulin considerably. Where this treatment does not prove to be successful, or in cases where the disease progresses, the condition is usually treated with a range of medication.