Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Tired, lacking energy, thirsty and feeling down? These are the most obvious and classical symptoms of type 2 diabetes. The disease typically develops gradually, and many people go undiagnosed for years.

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Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent variant of diabetes. The disease was previously associated with old age, but this is no longer the case, as the age of onset is now increasingly earlier.

Type 2 diabetes tends to creep up on the sufferer. The symptoms may develop very subtly and gradually, and many people may have the disease unawares. Some people are not diagnosed until they are admitted for a heart attack or begin to lose their sight.

It is estimated that in Norway there are as many people with undetected type 2 diabetes as there are people who have been diagnosed. This means that around 350,000 people in Norway are likely to have diabetes – 175,000 of them undiagnosed.

Type 2 diabetes as a disease is very simple to diagnose. A fasting blood test performed by your GP is often all it takes – or at least is a good start.

The basics of the common symptoms:

• Increased thirst and urination
• Sometimes increased hunger
• Weight loss
• Tiredness, lack of energy, feeling down/depressed
• Frequent fungal infections with itching and/or stinging in the crotch – and an increased tendency to urinary tract infections

Watch our video "The diabetic cat song" about type 2 symptoms:

 

A more detailed account:

If you develop type 2 diabetes, your body continues to produce insulin, but not enough, and/or your body is unable to use the insulin properly. If so, you have what is called insulin resistance.

One of the roles of insulin is to get sugar from the blood transferred to the cells in different parts of the body. In diabetes, some of the sugar stays in place, and the excess sugar builds up in the blood. The result is high blood sugar, also called hyperglycaemia.

Typical symptoms of high blood sugar are excessive thirst and urination. The kidneys have to work hard to get rid of the excess sugar, excreting it in the urine. In addition, muscles and other organs will be drained of energy if they fail to get enough sugar. Although this will make you hungry, you may well experience weight loss.

The reason for this is that if the body cannot metabolise the sugar it needs, it then resorts to an alternative source of energy and starts breaking down muscle and fatty tissue.

These changes in the metabolism gradually affect all bodily functions. When your body's cells are deprived of sugar, you may feel weak, tired and depressed. You are literally lacking energy. Other symptoms include blurred vision, wounds that are slow to heal or frequent infections.

Why is it important to react to the symptoms early?

Living with untreated type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar will eventually destroy nerves and small blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and heart, and increase the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This in turn carries a risk of heart attack and stroke. Type 2 diabetes is typically also associated with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, so it is important to have these measured and treated as well.

How is type 2 different from type 1?

Type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes bear several similarities, but are two different diseases and are completely unconnected. The two types also share common symptoms, but in type 2 diabetes the symptoms tend to creep up on the sufferer and develop over a long time, whereas in type 1 onset of the initial symptoms is usually rapid and may also be far more pronounced.

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, rapidly reducing production to zero. In type 2 diabetes, insulin is still produced, although the production is inadequate and the insulin is often not used properly. Nobody can live without insulin. With poor insulin production we live a long time, but in poor health.