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Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease, meaning it is an ongoing condition with no cure. When someone has type 2 diabetes, their body doesn’t use insulin properly. Early on, their body may try and overcompensate by making too much insulin, but over time it can’t make enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Some people with type 2 diabetes will experience symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst, hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, cuts and bruises that take a long time to heal, and tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands and/or feet (ADA). Others may not notice symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes can take years to develop.  It can be managed with lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, losing weight and exercising regularly. It’s important to take an active role in managing your type 2 diabetes because early detection and treatment may decrease the risk of developing disease-related complications.

What are some complications that could arise from type 2 diabetes?

When you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to work with your health care team to get blood sugar under control. If your glucose levels remain high over time, it can lead to a number of health problems, including:

Heart disease

High glucose can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves over time, and that can increase the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.  According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), adults with diabetes are almost twice as likely to die because of heart disease or stroke than people without the condition. 

Diabetic neuropathy

High glucose levels in the bloodstream over time can lead to nerve damage. This is what’s known as diabetic neuropathy. The nerve damage can come in different forms. 

 •  Foot problems

One form of diabetic neuropathy can cause your feet to feel numb. Because of the numbness, you may not be aware if your foot gets a cut or blister, which can lead to infection and other complications. 

•  Bladder and sex problems

Diabetic neuropathy can also negatively impact bladder and sexual functioning. Bladder issues for men and women may include frequent and urgent urination, trouble urinating, leakage, and infection. 

Sexual complications vary by gender. Over 50 percent of men with diabetes will experience erectile dysfunction, while women may experience a low sex drive, vaginal dryness, or even pain during intercourse. 

Diabetic kidney disease

Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease.  Over time, high glucose levels and high blood pressure can damage kidneys, making them unable to filter waste products out of the blood they way they should. About one-quarter of adults who have diabetes also have kidney disease.

Diabetic eye disease

Over time, high blood glucose can lead to damage in the blood vessels of your eyes, which can put you at risk of developing a variety of eye conditions.  These include diabetic retinopathy, when damaged or leaky blood vessels change the operation of the retina, the part of the eye that senses light; diabetic macular edema, when part of the retina is destroyed so you no longer have sharp vision; glaucoma, a set of diseases which can damage the nerves that connect eyes to the brain; and cataracts, which cloud your eye lenses. 

Mouth problems

Type 2 diabetes may also increase the risk factor for a number of dental problems due to high glucose levels. Glucose is present in the saliva, which can feed bacteria, which builds plaque. This may lead to cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, or even bad breath.

What can patients do to lower their risk for long-term complications?

An important part of managing your type 2 diabetes is talking to your doctor. He or she can help you come up with a personalized plan for your health. With their help, you can work to control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels to help decrease your risk for developing complications over time.

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