Type 2 Diabetes: symptoms, genetics, and impact on women

Diabetes is an increasingly common chronic condition affecting millions of people in the UK. Type 2 diabetes is, in part, inherited but environmental factors could also play a role.

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Diabetes is an increasingly common chronic condition affecting millions of people in the UK. Around 3.9 million people are currently living with diabetes in the UK, and a staggering 90% of diabetes cases are people living with type 2 diabetes.

What is Type 2 Diabetes and what are the symptoms?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, long-term condition that causes a person’s blood glucose (sugar) level to become too high. The hormone insulin is produced in the body by the pancreas and it’s responsible for controlling the amount of glucose that’s in the blood. But when people have type 2 diabetes, their pancreas does not produce enough insulin or their body’s cells don’t react to the insulin that’s produced.

In contrast, the pancreas does not produce any insulin in cases of type 1 diabetes. Yet, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes do share a number of symptoms. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes symptoms include:

  • Going to the toilet a lot, especially at night
  • Being very thirsty and not being able to quench the thirst
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • Losing weight without trying to or looking thinner than usual
  • Cuts and wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision 
  • Genital itching or thrush

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes tend to develop more slowly and may initially be overlooked. For example, you might not realise that tiredness, feeling a little run down, or being prone to infection could be tell-tale signs of the condition.

Is Type 2 Diabetes genetic?

While the single biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes is obesity, more than half of all cases could be prevented or delayed simply through making lifestyle changes. Your risk of developing the condition increases as you get older. Ethnicity is another risk factor as people over the age of 25 of African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian descent are two to four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes is, in part, inherited. You can also have a genetic link to developing type 2 diabetes, particularly if a close relative has had the condition such as a parent or sibling. The likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes differ. Environmental factors could also play a part in acting as initators or even accelerators.

“There is a strong genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes,” explains Omnos founder and CEO, Thomas Olivier. Thomas is also an expert in genomics and nutrition. “Some of the important genes responsible for insulin sensitivity and diabetes are peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG), and solute carrier family 2 member 2 (SLC2A2). PPARG is implicated in diabetes and obesity, while SLC2A2 is an integral glycoprotein that’s responsible for glucose transport and it also helps to identify blood sugar issues. Having chronic high glucose levels can increase your risk of developing serious problems with your eyes, heart, and nerves. Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle condition that can affect your everyday life if it is not well managed.”

The Omnos Genes Test is also known as the DNA test as it covers more than 700,000 genes. It charts the genes Thomas mentions above along with a number of others that are associated with diabetes. You can assess your potential risk of developing type 2 diabetes via the test, and benefit from personalised advice on the positive lifestyle steps you can introduce to manage, or even, reverse your symptoms. 

“While the body still produces insulin, this can be easily managed and improved by diet changes and exercise,” Thomas adds. “For example, eating mainly low glycaemic index (or GI) carbohydrates that slowly trickle glucose into your bloodstream has many benefits.”

How type 2 diabetes affects women

Having high blood sugar levels long-term can have a detrimental impact on women, as this greatly increases your risk of developing symptoms of sexual health dysfunction. 

One of the complications of diabetes is that having high blood sugar levels over a period of time can damage your blood vessels and nerves, including those that supply your sexual organs. 

Vaginal dryness is very common in women living with diabetes. High blood sugars can damage the blood vessels in your vagina, and this can lead to a lack of lubrication. The amount of blood flow to the area can also be affected, and you may experience some loss of sensation. As a result, sex can sometimes become very painful. 

Thrush is a fungal infection that is most common in women. While anyone can get thrush from time to time, if you have diabetes and your blood sugar is high, you’re more likely to get it. That’s because when you have a lot of sugar in your urine, it’s a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria that causes thrush to grow. 

Urinary tract infections are also quite common in women and are much more likely to develop when your sugars are running high.

Keeping your blood sugar level within your target range can help to reduce the likelihood of these issues affecting you. 

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