Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly common condition which is associated with a raised blood sugar level. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include frequent urination, tiredness (fatigue) and feeling excessively thirsty. Type 2 diabetes can also increase your risk of developing serious problems with your eyes, your heart and nerves.
It is a lifelong condition which can affect your day-to-day life. If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you will need to make changes to your diet, and have regular check-ups to monitor the condition. You may also have to take medication
Selfcare and more information
The NHS website have developed a guide which provides information about Type 2 diabetes, including symptoms to be aware of and when to see your GP.
Causes and risk factors
Causes of type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is generally caused by lifestyle problems such as eating the wrong diet, dealing with stress or being inactive. It is quite often linked to being overweight or living an inactive lifestyle, but there is also a risk of developing the condition if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
You are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if:
- You are over 40 years old, or 25 years old for south Asian people
- You have a close relative with diabetes, such as your mother, father or siblings
- You are overweight or obese
- You are of south Asian, Chinese, African Caribbean or black African origin, even if you were born in the UK.
When to see your GP
See your GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, or if you are concerned that you are at risk of developing the condition, based on the risk factors listed above.
Your GP can diagnose diabetes with a urine test and a blood test which will usually be carried out at your surgery or local health centre.
If you have diabetes, early treatment can reduce the risk of developing other health problems, so the earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better.
What to expect when you see your GP
If you are experiencing symptoms, and have made an appointment with your GP, you can usually expect the following:
- Your GP will check your urine and arrange for you to have a blood test. This will check your blood sugar levels. The results of the blood test normally take 1-2 days to come back to your doctor.
- If you have diabetes, your GP will invite you to make another appointment to explain the test results further, and the next steps. If you have any questions at this stage, it is always best to come prepared and make a list to take with you to your appointment. Your doctor will be able to discuss these with you further.
You can expect your GP to discuss with you:
- What diabetes is
- What it means for your health
- Any medication you need to take
- Your current diet and levels of exercise, and guidance on how to improve this if needed
- Your lifestyle and any changes you may need to make, for example cutting down on alcohol or quitting smoking.
Your GP will do their very best to discuss your diagnosis with you, but please bear in mind your first appointment may only be 10/ 15 minutes in length.
If you have any further questions following diagnosis
It can be difficult to take in everything a GP is telling you during an appointment, especially when you are diagnosed with a condition. It is best to talk to family and friends, and discuss with them what your GP has told you, and you might come up with some further questions. You can then make a further appointment with your GP and take a list of questions with you, or bring along a friend or family member for support.
There is also a lot of information available online; the NHS website (formerly known as NHS Choices) have developed a guide, click here to read more.
Managing my type 2 diabetes
Living a healthy lifestyle and keeping active will help you to manage your blood sugar level, as well as helping you to control your weight and improving the way you feel generally. In some cases, diet and exercise may be the only treatment needed.
There is nothing you can’t eat if you are a type 2 diabetic, but certain foods should be limited.
- Eat a wide range of foods, including plenty of fruit, vegetables and some starchy foods like pasta or potato
- Try keeping the amount of fat, sugar and salt you eat to a minimum
- Remember to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and not skin any meals.
If you have been advised to make changes to your diet, you may find it easier to start by making small changes every week. If you are finding it difficult to make changes, there may be a service local to you that can help.
Ask your diabetes nurse or GP for more information on services in your area.
More online resources for diet and nutrition can be found by clicking on the below links:
- food for people with diabetes
- tips on eating with your family and eating out
- recipes for people with diabetes
- food and nutrition message board
Physical activity has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels. Adults should aim for 2.5 hours of activity per week. “Being active” counts as doing anything that gets you out of breath, such as fast walking, climbing the stairs or doing strenuous work around the house.
Diabetes UK has more information on getting active, click here to see more.
Your weight is important
Losing weight (if you are overweight – you can find out using NHS Choices BMI calculator here) will make it easier on your body to lower your blood sugar levels, and can improve your overall health, such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
If you do need to lose weight, it is best to try to do this slowly over time – aim for around 0.5 to 1kg per week, or 1-2 pounds per week.
Click here to read more about healthy weight and weight loss from Diabetes UK.
You can get support from your local healthy lifestyles service to manage your weight, follow the links below to find out more:
Going for regular check ups
If you have type 2 diabetes, it is important that you attend regular check-ups to make sure your condition does not lead to other health problems.
Every 3 months
Your doctor will arrange for you to have blood sugar test (also known as HbA1C). This will check your average blood sugar levels, and how close they are to “normal” range.
It is likely that you will need to have these tests every three months when you are first diagnose, but once your condition is well controlled and stable, tests will then generally take place every 6 months.
Once a year
Foot check up
Your diabetic nurse, GP or local podiatrist will check your feet to see if your diabetes is affecting your foot health. They will check for any loss of feeling, ulcerations or any developing infections.
You should not wait for your annual check up to speak to your GP if you have any unexplained cuts, bruising or numbness in your feet.
Eye check up
You will have an annual check on your eyes, to see if there has been any damage to the blood vessels.
Speak to your GP straight away if you are experiencing blurred vision, and they will direct you to the most appropriate service to have further checks
Checks for blood pressure, cholesterol levels and kidney health
This will be done by your GP or practice nurse.
The NHS website has produced more detailed information about the importance of attending check ups and symptoms to look out for by clicking here.
Videos about type 2 diabetes
What is type 2 diabetes?
What is type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes UK | Published 10 April 2018
Important information about my type 2 diabetes
- You need to inform the DVLA if you take insulin for your type 2 diabetes, as you are at risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). The DVLA could find you if they are not notified.
- Carry medical ID with you at all times in case of an emergency. Some people wear a special wristband, or carry a card inside their wallet, that can be read if they are involved in an emergency situation. The fact that you have diabetes may change the course of treatment you need. You can search “medical ID” on the internet to find hundreds of websites which sell these. Many smartphones nowadays also have a medical ID built in, or have apps that you can download if your phone doesn’t already have this feature. Have a look on the NHS app library for more information.
- It is important your colleagues or employer know your diabetic, in case of an emergency
Waiting for a specialist opinion
If you have been referred for a specialist opinion your details will be reviewed and it may be recommended that you are seen by a hospital clinician. Information to support you in choosing your preferred hospital, including waiting times can be found using the links below.
How long will I wait?
If a hospital assessment and/or treatment is clinically recommended your information will be sent to a specialist. Click below to find out more about waiting times for routine hospital assessment and/or treatment.