Northside Health Library

Type 2 diabetes - self-care


Type 2 diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) disease. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body has trouble using the insulin it normally makes. When your body’s insulin is not used correctly, the sugar from food stays in the blood and the level can get too high. Over time, people with type 2 diabetes may not have enough insulin.

Most people with the type 2 diabetes are overweight when they are diagnosed. Type 2 diabetes usually happens slowly.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

You may not have any symptoms, but you may have these symptoms:

  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Peeing a lot
  • Blurry vision
  • Infections
  • Trouble having an erection
  • Red skin rashes in parts of your body

You should have good control of your blood sugar. If not, more serious problems can happen to your body after many years.

See also: Long term complications of diabetes

Take Control of Your Diabetes

It is very important to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol level in a healthy range. You should learn the basic steps for managing diabetes to stay as healthy as possible. Steps will include a healthy diet and exercise. Some people will need medicine for their diabetes.

You may need to check your blood sugar at home. Your doctor will also help you by taking blood tests and other tests. This will help you keep complications of diabetes away.

Eat Healthy and Manage Your Weight

Foods with sugar and carbohydrates can raise your blood sugar too high. Alcohol and other drinks with sugar can also raise your blood sugar. A nurse or dietician can teach you about good food choices.

Make sure you know how to have a balanced meal with protein and fiber. Try to eat at the same times each day. Try to eat healthy, fresh foods. Do not eat too much food at one sitting. This helps keep your blood sugar in a good range.

Managing your weight and eating a well-balanced diet are important. Some people with type 2 diabetes can stop taking medications after losing weight (although they still have diabetes). Your doctor can let you know a good weight range for you.

Weight-loss surgery may be an option if you are overweight and your diabetes is not under control.


Regular exercise is very good for people with diabetes. It lowers blood sugar. It also improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Exercise helps to burn extra fat so that you can keep your weight down. It can help you handle stress.

Try walking, jogging, or biking for 30 - 60 minutes every day. Bring food or juice with you in case your blood sugar gets too low. Drink extra water.

It is a good idea to wear a diabetes bracelet so that, in an emergency, people know you have diabetes.

Always check with your doctor first. Your doctor can help you choose an exercise program that is safe for you.

Check Your Blood Sugar

You may be asked to check your blood sugar at home yourself. This will tell you and your doctor how well your diet, exercise, and medicines are working. A device called a glucometer can provide an accurate blood sugar reading.

A doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator will help set up an at-home testing schedule for you. Your doctor will help you set your blood sugar goals.

  • Most people with type 2 diabetes need to check their blood sugar only once or twice a day.
  • If your blood sugar levels are under control, you may need to check your blood sugar only a few times a week.

See also:

You May Need Medications

If diet and exercise are not enough, you may need to take medicine. It will help you keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.

There are many diabetes medicines that do different things in your body. Your doctor may have you take more than one. Many of these drugs may be given along with insulin, if needed. They are taken by mouth or injection. They may not be safe if you are pregnant.

If these medicines do not help you control your blood sugar, you may need to take insulin. Insulin must be injected under the skin. You need special training to use it. But it is not as hard as most people think.

Learn to Prevent Long-term Problems of Diabetes

People with diabetes have a higher chance of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You may be asked to take medicine to prevent or treat these conditions.

  • Your doctor may ask you to take a medicine called an ACE inhibitor or another medicine called an ARB for high blood pressure or kidney problems.
  • Your doctor may ask you to take a special medicine called a statin to keep your cholesterol low.

Your doctor may ask you to take aspirin to keep your heart healthy. Ask your doctor if aspirin is right for you.

Don’t smoke. Smoking can make diabetes worse. If you do smoke, work with your doctor to find a way to quit.

Diabetes can cause foot problems. You could get sores or infections. To keep your feet healthy, you should:

See Your Doctor Regularly

If you have diabetes, you should see your health care provider every 3 months. At these visits, your health care provider may:

  • Ask about your blood sugar levels
  • Check your blood pressure
  • Check the feeling in your feet
  • Check the skin and bones of your feet and legs
  • Examine the back of your eyes
  • Send you to the laboratory for blood and urine tests to:
    • Make sure your kidneys are working well (every year)
    • Make sure your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are healthy (every year)
    • Check your HbA1c level (every 6 months if your diabetes is well controlled, or every 3 months if it's not)

You should visit the dentist every 6 months. Also, see your eye doctor once per year unless instructed differently by your health care provider.


American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2010. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jan;33 Suppl 1:S11-61.

Review Date: 11/11/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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