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Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in Finland. This disease is very dangerous, as it does not necessarily cause any symptoms. Despite this, treatment is crucial, because untreated diabetes can lead to coronary artery disease, kidney disease, circulatory disorders in the lower limbs, stroke, or retinopathy, which can cause blindness.

Diabetes can cause vague symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, thirst, increased urination and sweating. At first, diabetes causes no symptoms, or the symptoms develop too slowly to be noticed. Diabetes can easily be diagnosed with a fasting blood sugar test. Blood sugar levels are often measured during normal health checks, and symptom-free diabetes can be discovered that way. The patient has diabetes if the fasting blood sugar level is 7 mmol/l or above. If the limit value is not exceeded, but the patient is still suspected to have diabetes, he or she can be subjected to a 2 hour glucose tolerance test or a glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) test.

If you suspect that you have diabetes, either because you have symptoms or because it runs in the family, you should seek help from a doctor who can perform the necessary tests. You can also make an appointment with a diabetes nurse who can make a risk assessment and advise you on lifestyle choices. Diabetes should be diagnosed in time! 

Not just sugar

The primary goal of the treatment is to prevent comorbidities associated with type 2 diabetes, particularly arterial diseases. The treatment does not only focus on correcting the high blood sugar levels, but also on other risk factors – the most important ones being high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Diabetes patients are often overweight, and losing weight is a well-known way of managing the risk factors. Exercise has positive effects; just half an hour of walking per day can help correct the blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure, make you more alert and help you lose weight.

Dietary choices are very important. A balanced diet composed of the right amounts of energy, carbohydrates and fat helps you lose weight. Cholesterol levels can also be greatly improved just through dietary choices. A diabetic should not, under any circumstances, smoke.

Medication right away

When a patient has been diagnosed with diabetes, he or she is referred to a diabetes nurse who goes through the basics of the disease with the patient. In most cases, the patient is required to monitor his or her own blood sugar by measuring it with a simple glucose meter in the mornings and at mealtimes. The blood sugar monitoring helps the physician plan the treatment.

The attending physician assesses the need for medication individually. Metformin, which lowers blood sugar, is usually prescribed immediately when the patient is diagnosed with diabetes. Metformin is often used alongside other blood sugar lowering medications. If necessary, the patient can also be prescribed cholesterol and blood pressure medication as well as acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), which prevents the blood from clotting. The physician needs to know about all other medications the patient is using, including vitamins and natural medicines.

Insulin is sometimes used to treat type 2 diabetes, but tablet treatment usually suffices, especially in the early stages of the illness. The newer injectable incretin mimetic medications can also be used to treat early stage diabetes.

Diabetes requires long-term treatment and a close relationship between patient and caregiver. The patient goes for regular check-ups - usually every 6-12 months. During these visits, the patient and the caregiver discuss the patient’s physical and psychological health, look through lab test results and decide how to proceed with the treatment. In most cases, the medication is long-term or permanent. If your state of health has changed or if you have experienced any new symptoms, you should bring this up when visiting your physician or nurse.