Imagine your body as a complex machine that needs fuel to run smoothly. Just like a car needs gasoline, your body needs a sugar called glucose for energy. However, sometimes there’s a problem where the body struggles to use glucose properly, which can lead to health issues. One common problem is called Type 2 Diabetes. Let’s break down what this is and how it’s different from other types of diabetes.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is like a traffic jam in your body’s glucose highway. Normally, the cells in your body use a hormone called insulin to help them absorb glucose and use it for energy. But in Type 2 Diabetes, this system goes a bit haywire. Your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or the insulin it makes doesn’t work well. As a result, glucose piles up in your bloodstream, like cars stuck in traffic, and your cells don’t get the energy they need.

How Does Type 2 Diabetes Differ From Other Types of Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is when your body struggles to use glucose properly, leading to high levels of sugar in your blood. It’s a bit like a traffic jam in your body’s energy highway. It’s important to understand how it differs from other types of diabetes to manage your health effectively.

Onset and Occurrence

  • Type 2 Diabetes – This is a metabolic disorder in which the body becomes resistant to insulin or does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. It is often associated with factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and genetic predisposition.
  • Type 1 Diabetes – This is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It can develop at any age and is usually diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood.
  • Gestational Diabetes – This type of diabetes develops specifically during pregnancy and is not present before conception. It typically occurs around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.


  • Type 2 Diabetes – It is influenced by a combination of genetic factors, lifestyle factors (such as diet, physical activity, and obesity), and insulin resistance.
  • Type 1 Diabetes – It is primarily caused by an autoimmune response that targets and damages insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
  • Gestational Diabetes – The exact cause is not fully understood, but hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to insulin resistance, where the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin. This results in elevated blood sugar levels.

Long-Term Effects

  • Type 2 Diabetes – If left unmanaged, it can lead to various complications similar to those of type 1 diabetes, including cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, nerve damage, and eye issues.
  • Type 1 Diabetes – It requires lifelong insulin therapy and management. If not properly managed, it can lead to complications affecting the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other organs.
  • Gestational Diabetes – Blood sugar levels usually return to normal after childbirth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


  • Type 2 Diabetes – Treatment may involve lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), oral medications, and in some cases, insulin therapy.
  • Type 1 Diabetes – It requires insulin therapy for life, along with careful monitoring of blood sugar levels, diet, and physical activity.
  • Gestational Diabetes – It is typically managed through dietary changes, regular physical activity, and, in some cases, insulin therapy to control blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

What Are the Causes of Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is a bit like a puzzle, and many pieces can come together to cause it. Here are some of the main factors:

Family Genes

Sometimes, diabetes runs in families. If your parents or close relatives have Type 2 Diabetes, you might be more likely to get it too.

Weight and Lifestyle

Imagine your body as a balance scale. If you eat more than your body needs and don’t move around enough, you might gain extra weight. This can make your cells less responsive to insulin, leading to Type 2 Diabetes.

Too Much Belly Fat

Having extra fat around your belly is like having a storage place for problems. This type of fat can make it harder for your body to use insulin properly.

Unhealthy Eating

If you fill up on sugary and fatty foods, it’s like giving your body too much of the wrong kind of fuel. This can mess up how your body handles glucose.

Not Moving Enough

Picture your body as a car that needs to be driven regularly. If you don’t move around often, it can make your cells less sensitive to insulin, causing diabetes.

Getting Older

Just like a car gets older and needs more maintenance, your body’s systems can change with age. This can increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

Health Conditions

Certain health issues, like high blood pressure, can team up with diabetes. It’s like having two problems that make things more complicated.

Hormonal Changes

Sometimes, hormones in your body can act like traffic controllers gone wrong, affecting how insulin works.
Remember, these factors don’t always lead to diabetes, but they can increase the chances. It’s like pieces of a puzzle coming together to create a bigger picture of your health.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Type 2 Diabetes?

Think of risk factors like warning signs that say “caution.” Some things can make you more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes. Here are some of them:

Family History

If diabetes runs in your family, it’s like a flag that says you might be at risk too. Genes play a part in this.


Imagine your body as a seesaw. If you carry extra weight, especially around your belly, it can tilt the balance towards diabetes.

Inactive Lifestyle

If you’re not active and spend a lot of time sitting, it’s like you’re not giving your body a chance to stay healthy.

Unhealthy Eating

Eating too many sugary and fatty foods is like feeding trouble to your body. It can lead to diabetes.


As you get older, the chances of diabetes can go up. It’s like your body’s systems needing a bit more care.

High Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure is like having a storm brewing inside you. It can team up with diabetes and cause problems.

Gestational Diabetes

If you had diabetes during pregnancy, it’s like a sign that your body might be more prone to diabetes later on.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

This is like another puzzle piece. If you have PCOS, it can increase the risk of diabetes.

Certain Ethnic Backgrounds

Some groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, are more likely to develop diabetes. It’s like a group of people who need to be extra cautious.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormones can sometimes act like mischievous players, affecting how your body handles insulin.
Remember, having one or more of these factors doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get diabetes. It’s like warning signs telling you to pay attention to your health choices. By being aware of these risks, you can take steps to keep your health on the right track.

What Are the Signs of Type 2 Diabetes?

Think of these signs as little signals your body might be sending you. If you notice these, it’s like your body’s way of saying, something might not be quite right. Here are some signs to watch for:

Thirst and Hunger

If you feel like you’re always thirsty and hungry, it’s like your body’s way of telling you it needs more fuel.

Frequent Urination

If you’re making lots of trips to the bathroom, it’s like your body trying to get rid of extra sugar through your pee.


Feeling tired a lot, even when you’re not doing much, is like a red flag that your body’s energy system might be off.

Blurry Vision

If your vision gets blurry, it’s like your eyes sending a message that high sugar levels might be affecting them.

Slow Healing

If cuts and bruises take longer to heal, it’s like your body’s way of telling you it’s having trouble fixing things.

Tingling or Numbness

Feeling pins and needles in your hands or feet, or even numbness, is like a signal that your nerves might be affected.

Frequent Infections

If you keep getting infections like UTIs or yeast infections, it’s like your body’s defenses might be a bit weakened.

Darkened Skin Patches

If certain parts of your skin, like your neck or armpits, get darker, it’s like a sign that something might be up with your insulin.

What Medical Tests and Criteria Are Used to Diagnose Type 2 Diabetes?

The diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes involves a combination of medical tests and criteria. The main tests used to diagnose Type 2 diabetes include:

Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Test

This test measures the blood glucose level after an overnight fast of at least 8 hours. A fasting plasma glucose level of above 7mmol/L (126mg/dL) on two occasions indicates diabetes.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

The OGTT involves fasting overnight and then drinking a sugary solution. Blood glucose levels are measured before drinking the solution and at various intervals afterwards. A glucose level of 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) or higher two hours after consuming 75g of glucose confirms the diagnosis of diabetes.

Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) Test

This test measures the average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months. An HbA1c level of 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes. However, it’s important to note that HbA1c results can be affected by certain conditions, so it’s not the sole diagnostic criterion.

Random Plasma Glucose Test

In some cases, if classic symptoms of diabetes are present (excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss) and a blood glucose level of 11.1mmol/L (200 mg/dL) or higher is measured, a diagnosis of diabetes may be made even without fasting.

Criteria for Diagnosis

In addition to test results, the criteria for diagnosing Type 2 diabetes include typical diabetes symptoms (polyuria, polydipsia, unexplained weight loss) and confirmation of elevated blood glucose levels on repeated testing.

How Is Type 2 Diabetes Treated?

The treatment of Type 2 diabetes focuses on managing blood glucose levels, preventing complications, and improving overall health. The approach to treatment can vary based on individual factors such as the severity of the condition, medical history, lifestyle, and other health considerations. Here are some common approaches to treating Type 2 diabetes:

Lifestyle Modifications

  • Diet – Adopting a balanced and healthy diet is essential. This includes monitoring carbohydrate intake, focusing on whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
  • Physical Activity – Regular exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity and assist in maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with strength training.

Oral Medications

  • Metformin – This medication is commonly prescribed for treatment of type 2 diabetes.It helps improve insulin sensitivity and decreases glucose production by the liver.
  • Sulfonylureas, – They stimulate insulin production by the beta cells of the pancreas.
  • SGLT2 Inhibitors – They help lower blood glucose levels by increasing glucose excretion via the urine DPP4 inhibitors – They increase incretin level to enhance beta cell functions and increases GLP 1 and reduces glucagon levels
  • GLP-1 Receptor Agonist – They increase insulin levels and reduces glucose production in the liver
  • Acarbose – They reduce intestinal uptake but may cause side effects such as flatulance.
  • Insulin Therapy
Some individuals with Type 2 diabetes may eventually require insulin therapy if their blood glucose levels cannot be adequately controlled with oral medications and lifestyle changes alone.

Blood Glucose Monitoring

Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is essential to help individuals understand how their diet, physical activity, and medications are impacting their diabetes management.

Weight Management

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can greatly improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Control

Managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels is crucial to prevent cardiovascular complications, which are more common in people with diabetes.

Regular Check-ups

Regular visits to doctors are important for monitoring blood glucose levels, checking for complications, adjusting medications, and making necessary changes to the treatment plan.

Education and Support

Diabetes education and support programs can help individuals learn about their condition, how to manage it effectively, and make informed decisions about their health.

What Is the Role of Healthcare Professionals in Managing Type 2 Diabetes?

Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in managing Type 2 diabetes by providing medical expertise, guidance, education, and support to individuals with the condition. Diabetes is a complex and chronic disease requiring a comprehensive care approach. The healthcare team typically comprises various professionals collaborating to create an effective diabetes management plan.

Dr. Cho Li Wei 朱丽薇医生

Consultant Endocrinologist
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