Will My Type 2 Diabetes Get Worse?

Find out how to manage your Type 2 diabetes and reduce the chances of long-term complications.

February, 2021

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Type 2 diabetes is a progressive, long-term condition that may get worse over time if not managed well. However, with appropriate care and management people can live well with Type 2 diabetes.

There are lots of things you can do to manage your blood sugar levels. The better you do that, the less likely you are to develop long-term complications. Some people can even put the disease into remission. That means that they have normal blood sugar levels and do not need their medication.

It is always worth remembering that poorly controlled blood glucose levels, not Type 2 diabetes, are the cause of long-term complications.

What does progressive disease mean?

No one knows exactly why some people develop Type 2 diabetes and others do not, but it is linked to being overweight or obese. Doctors class Type 2 diabetes as a progressive disease. That means that it tends to get worse over time -but it doesn’t have to be that way.

People develop the condition because they stop producing insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that is important in the process of turning the carbohydrates we eat into glucose, the body’s main source of energy.

Without insulin, the body is unable to regulate how much glucose goes into the cells as fuel and how much circulates in the blood.

Over time, too much glucose in the blood will damage the blood vessels and organs. This is what causes dangerous long-term complications like nerve damage, kidney problems, and heart disease. And it is why doctors call Type 2 diabetes a progressive disease.

How can I reduce the chances of long-term complications?

Managing your blood glucose levels will help you to avoid long-term complications.
Everyone will work with their healthcare team to establish the right levels for them. In general, Diabetes UK says, an ideal HbA1c level is 48mmol/mol (6.5%) or lower.

In healthy people, insulin keeps blood glucose levels stable. But in people with Type 2 diabetes, the body needs a bit of help.

Medication

Most people with Type 2 diabetes take medication. There are lots of different types and you will work with your healthcare team to find the right one for you.

Taking this medication in the way the doctor advises is the first step to managing blood sugar levels.

Food

Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body turns carbohydrates into energy. By choosing what you eat wisely, you can help keep blood sugar levels steady.

According to the NHS, people with Type 2 diabetes should:

  • eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables
  • keep sugar, fat, and salt to a minimum
  • never skip meals
Stay active

Physical activity is also really important. When someone exercises, they breathe harder and their heart beats faster, meaning their body needs to use more glucose as fuel. As such, it lowers blood glucose levels.
Over time, regular exercise also makes the insulin in the body work better.

The NHS recommends people aim for 2.5 hours of activity every week. As long as the activity leaves you out of breath, it could be anything you enjoy doing:

  • fast walking
  • dancing
  • cycling
  • gardening
  • swimming
Maintaining a healthy weight

There are lots of benefits to maintaining a healthy weight. As well as helping the body to use insulin better, it will help you to avoid long-term conditions. It does this by:

  • lowering blood pressure – people with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are more at risk of a heart attack or stroke than people without the conditions
  • lowering cholesterol – high levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol can make people more likely to develop heart disease
Not smoking

Every cell in the body needs a ready supply of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to repair and maintain itself. But diabetes reduces blood circulation, which can lead to nerve damage.

Smoking also worsens blood circulation. Quitting can help you avoid the nerve damage that can lead to foot problems such as diabetic ulcers and even amputations.

Can I reverse my Type 2 diabetes?

There is no cure for Type 2 diabetes, and it can’t be reversed. However, if you are overweight, there is a chance that you could put your condition into remission.

That means having normal blood sugar levels (a HbA1c of below 48mmol/mol or 6.5% for at least six months) and no longer needing your diabetes medication.

Scientists do not know how long remission lasts for, or if it is possible for everyone. But according to Diabetes UK, losing around 15kg in bodyweight can significantly increase your chances of achieving remission.

The current evidence shows it is more likely in people who lose a substantial amount of weight as quickly as possible after diagnosis, with the help of their healthcare team.