Obesity and Type-2 Diabetes
Type-2 diabetes is a chronic health condition in which the body becomes unable to effectively convert sugar into energy. This causes sugar to build up in the bloodstream, which can increase your risk for nerve and organ damage.
While once rare, type-2 diabetes is now the most common form of diabetes. It affects adults and children, often as a result of dietary choices and lack of exercise. Being overweight or obese is the leading risk factor for the development of type-2 diabetes.
Other factors that will increase your risk for developing type-2 diabetes include:
- Increased age
- Family history of diabetes
- Lack of physical activity
- Following a diet rich in sugars and fat
Weight loss surgery can reduce your risk of developing this disease, and if you already have it, bariatric surgery has been shown to reduce severity in some people and completely reverse the condition in others.
What Causes Diabetes?
Diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to use the hormone insulin to balance blood sugar levels.
Our bodies convert foods that contain carbohydrates into glucose, a sugar that our cells use for energy. When the pancreas detects glucose in the blood, it releases insulin, which helps our cells take in glucose and use it as fuel.
Insulin is like a key that opens the doors of our cells to allow glucose in. Without insulin, the cells of our muscles, organs and fat tissue cannot absorb glucose or use it as energy. When glucose enters the bloodstream, the body releases the appropriate amount of insulin to transport it into the cells.
Unfortunately, many people consume too much sugar requiring more insulin to successfully move it into the cell to become fuel. The body cannot keep up with this rapid pace of insulin production, and the cells may become resistant to the insulin that is present. Without insulin, blood sugar levels will continue to rise.
How Does Diabetes Develop?
Type 2 diabetes typically develops in stages over many years as insulin gradually loses its effectiveness. These stages include:
- Insulin resistance. As the cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin, the pancreas releases more and more insulin to compensate and manages to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range.
- Prediabetes. Over time, the cells continue to grow less responsive to insulin. Though the pancreas attempts to maintain control by releasing higher levels of insulin, it eventually cannot keep up. Insulin levels drop and blood glucose levels climb into an abnormal range.
- Type 2 diabetes. Blood glucose levels can no longer be controlled by the pancreas and they continue to rise higher and higher.
Each individual progresses through these stages at a different rate, but most people develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years of becoming prediabetic if left untreated.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
Insulin resistance and prediabetes typically cause no symptoms and may go undiagnosed for years. The same may be also true of type-2 diabetes. However, high levels of blood glucose can result in both short-term symptoms and long-term medical problems.
Diabetes can result in symptoms like:
- Blurry vision
- Frequent infections
- Slow-healing wounds
- Increased thirst and hunger
- More frequent urination
- Hunger soon after eating
- Patches of dark skin, particularly in the neck and armpits
Without treatment, abnormally high glucose levels can cause serious damage to the nerves and blood vessels, raising the risk of complications like:
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
- Lower limb amputation
Blood tests are used to diagnose diabetes or assess the risk of developing the condition by measuring levels of blood glucose.
Once diabetes has been diagnosed, medications are often used to control the condition, but these are not long-term solutions to the problem. Weight loss is one of the most affective forms of treatment for type-2 diabetes. Many people who undergo bariatric surgery experience health improvements, and in some cases the onset of the disease will reverse.