Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90 to 95 percent of all cases of diabetes. Some people don’t know they’re living with type 2 diabetes until their blood glucose, or sugar, levels are high enough to produce side effects or they find out through routine testing at a doctor’s appointment.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body can’t properly use insulin to move glucose out of the blood and into your cells.
If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to remember that it’s a progressive condition. This means that your cells may stop responding to insulin over time or your pancreas may stop producing insulin altogether. As diabetes progresses, you may need to change your treatment plan.
Read on for answers to four frequently asked questions about how type 2 diabetes can change over time.
Yes, type 2 diabetes can change over time. A type 2 diabetes diagnosis means you have blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels that are too high.
Insulin is a hormone your pancreas makes. It helps move glucose from the blood into your cells, where it can be used for energy.
In type 2 diabetes, however, your body doesn’t respond properly to insulin. This is called insulin resistance.
If you have insulin resistance, your body isn’t able to effectively use insulin to move glucose into your cells. As a result, glucose builds up in your blood.
Type 2 diabetes typically starts with insulin resistance. You may or may not know you have type 2 diabetes while your body is dealing with insulin resistance.
In an attempt to get your cells to respond, the beta cells in your pancreas go into overdrive by making more insulin. But, as time goes on, your body can’t make enough insulin to keep up with the demand.
Eventually, the beta cells may become damaged and stop producing insulin altogether. This leads to a rise in your blood glucose levels.
Over time, high blood glucose can lead to complications, such as:
It’s essential to know that type 2 diabetes a progressive condition that requires monitoring and occasional changes to your treatment plan in order to keep symptoms under control, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Some people can manage type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, while others may need medications like metformin to manage blood glucose levels.
In some cases, this initial treatment plan is enough. However, it’s not uncommon to need to add or change medications or to make changes to your diet and exercise plan as time goes on. Some people with type 2 diabetes may also need to take insulin as part of their treatment plan.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that currently has no cure. So while you may have periods where symptoms are minimal or unnoticeable, especially in the early stages, that doesn’t mean the disease itself comes and goes.
You may also have periods where blood glucose levels or blood glucose markers revert to a non-diabetic range and stay in that range for at least 6 months without the help of diabetes medication. This is considered remission, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Health (NIDDK).
Weight loss is the primary means of achieving remission in people with type 2 diabetes. Remission isn’t the same as a cure, however. You still have diabetes even if you’re in remission. Your blood sugar levels may return to a diabetic range due to factors such as weight gain, for example.
How fast type 2 diabetes progresses depends on several factors such as genetics, diet, activity level, and how your body responds to medication.
Slowing the progression is not an exact science, at least not yet. In the meantime, the ADA says a combination of exercise, a well-balanced eating plan, and weight loss, if needed, can help manage blood sugar levels and delay the progression of type 2 diabetes.
While it’s difficult to predict how quickly your condition will progress, we do know that it varies from person to person. That’s why it’s essential to keep in contact with your doctor and care team about how type 2 diabetes is impacting your life and whether you need to adjust your treatment or management plan.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are two separate conditions with different causes. Therefore, type 2 diabetes will not eventually become type 1 diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to manage the condition. Experts think type 1 is triggered by factors in the environment or genetics, according to the NIDDK.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is a result of your body not using insulin properly. Experts believe a combination of factors such as genetics and family history, lifestyle, stress, physical activity, diet, and body weight contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which requires insulin therapy, many people with type 2 diabetes can manage the condition with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. In some cases, people with type 2 diabetes may need medication or insulin to manage their blood glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition that requires a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
While it’s difficult to predict how fast or slow the disease will progress, it’s important to understand that you may need to make changes to your treatment plan to help manage your blood sugar levels. This may involve adding or changing medications or starting insulin therapy.
Make sure to talk with your doctor if you have any questions about the progression of type 2 diabetes and how it impacts your treatment plan.
Last medically reviewed on April 18, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Apr 18, 2022
Sara Lindberg
Edited By
Erin Coakley
Medically Reviewed By
Kelly Wood, MD
Copy Edited By
Stassi Myer – CE
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