Get to Know Type 2 Diabetes and its Dangers in 5mins or less

The Gist of It:

  • 3.6 million Malaysians are affected by diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is non-insulin-dependent and is the most common form of diabetes in Malaysia.
  • Diabetes could lead to amputation of the leg, blindness, kidney failure, heart problems, and more.


Being number 1 is usually a good thing but not if you’re the number 1 country in ASEAN for having the highest number of diabetics and sixth in the Western pacific region. In 2013, The Star reported that 3.6 million Malaysians are affected by diabetes and the number is rising! [1]

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in Malaysia and it affects all walks of life. Could this be related to the fact that Malaysians are the 8th largest sugar consumers in the world? [2] A survey conducted in 2005 revealed that Malaysians consume an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar per person a day! [3] Now consuming sweet stuff alone is not the cause of diabetes and is one of the biggest myths of diabetes. But sugar adds to the weight gain which then leads to obesity…

Could obesity play a role in the rise of diabetes? Malaysia is ranked as the highest among Asian countries for obesity with 45.3% of our population being obese! [4]

The answer to the question above is a resounding YES! But first let’s take a closer look at what Type 2 diabetes really is…

What is Type 2 diabetes?


Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that is characterised by high levels of sugar in the blood. It affects the way the body processes and uses proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

During the digestion period, food is broken down into its basic components and the liver processes these nutrients into a type of sugar called glucose. This glucose is like petrol for the body, it gives us energy on a daily basis.

Glucose enters our body’s cells with the help of insulin, a type of hormone naturally produced by the pancreas. Without this insulin, glucose cannot pass through the walls of the cells. Type 2 diabetes happens when our body’s cells do not react accordingly to insulin. This condition is called insulin resistance.


For people with insulin resistance, the pancreas first makes extra insulin naturally to maintain a normal blood sugar. Over time, the body’s insulin resistance gets worse and the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand for more and more insulin resulting in the increase of blood glucose levels.

The scary part about Type 2 is that it runs in the family. Although it mostly affects those above the age of 40, more and more young people are getting it.

Factors that increases the risk of diabetes:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a waist size of 31.5 inches or more (women) or more than 37 inches (men)
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Having a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure or raised cholesterol levels
  • Smoker

The Dangers of Type 2

The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes is not very obvious and can be easily ignored, especially in the early stages when you’re feeling healthy. But diabetes affects most major organs like the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and eyes. Here’s a list of worst case scenarios:

Some of the complications courtesy of Type 2 diabetes | Image from
Some of the complications courtesy of Type 2 diabetes | Image from

1. Heart and blood vessel diseases

The risk of having cardiovascular problems are increased, giving way to conditions such as heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease with chest pain,  narrowing of arteries, high blood pressure, and more.

2. Eye complications

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina which potentially leads to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.

3. Kidney damage

Our kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel groups that filter waste from our blood. This delicate filtering system can be damaged by diabetes and severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

4. Skin and mouth conditions

Diabetes makes you more prone to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections. Gum infections may also be a concern especially if you have a history of poor dental hygiene.

5. Foot damage

Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various leg complications. If left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections. Severe infections or damages may lead to amputation. Yes that’s right, amputation. Because the cells are dead, making that particular part of the body useless and may cause even more infections.

6. Nerve damage

Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that feeds your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause numbness, tingling or burning sensations, and even pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upwards. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.

Do something about it before it gets too late. Learn how to manage Type 2 Diabetes here. 


HealthWorks is currently running a series on diabetes, click here to read more on this silent killer.



Written by Matt Ho
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (
US National Library of Medicine (
Persatuan Diabetes Malaysia (
Global Diabetes Community (
UpToDate (
American Diabetes Association (

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