What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes: The Basics

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder in which blood sugar (glucose) is too high. Ordinarily, glucose moves from the blood into all parts of the body. A hormone called insulin, released from the pancreas, makes this movement possible. When the body stops reacting properly to insulin, glucose builds up in the blood.

Symptoms of diabetes can be relatively mild or extremely severe. Some symptoms include:

  • thirstiness
  • frequent urination
  • extreme fatigue
  • constant hunger

Complications of diabetes can be disabling or even fatal. Some of these complications include nerve damage to extremities (hands and feet), blindness, skin infections, kidney disease, and stroke.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1, also called "juvenile diabetes," usually develops in childhood. It is a disorder in which damage to the pancreas makes it impossible for the body to produce insulin. Type 2, which typically develops in adults, is a form of insulin resistance. Type 2 is often treatable through lifestyle changes.

Some groups of people are more susceptible than others to type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • People who are adolescent and older (young children are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes)
  • Native Americans, Pacific islanders, and people of Hispanic origin
  • People who are overweight and sedentary

    What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

    Obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle are powerful predictors of type 2 diabetes, but not everyone has the same susceptibility. In type 2 diabetes, cells of the human body start to become increasingly resistant to the hormone insulin. Cells need insulin to help them use blood sugar (glucose).

     When the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood stream, unable to move properly into the cells, where it is processed for energy. Being overweight contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes because excess fatty tissue can make cells much more resistant to insulin.

    A chronic, progressive condition, type 2 diabetes is most common in people age 45 and over who are overweight or obese. With the obesity epidemic, however, cases of type 2 diabetes are seen earlier and earlier.

    How to Prevent or Treat Type 2 Diabetes

    It is often possible to prevent or successfully treat type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes and oral medication. In order to do this, of course, it's very important to know whether you are already pre-diabetic. If you are having symptoms that seem to suggest diabetes, your doctor can order a blood test to check for glucose levels.

    Type 2 diabetes may be managed (or even reversed, early on) by diet and exercise. You may be recommended to a nutritionist who can help you to select foods that can reduce weight while also controlling blood sugar.


    Long-term control of glucose levels is crucial, however, and oral medications or insulin injections may be necessary.  Poor control is associated with many long-term complications including heart disease; nerve, kidney and eye damage; foot damage; osteoporosis; and a greater risk of dementia and some cancers.


    Cleveland Clinic. “Diabetes.” Diseases & Conditions. Accessed Aug. 2013

    Mayo Clinic. “Diabetes.” Diseases & Conditions. Accessed Aug. 2013

    Harvard Medical School. Medical Dictionary of Health Terms. Harvard Health Publications. Accessed Aug. 2013

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