What is Type 2 diabetes?


What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. This is also known as insulin resistance. When we eat, our bodies break down complex carbohydrates into glucose, the fuel we need. The pancreas releases insulin that acts as a kind of key to unlock the cells, allowing glucose to enter and be absorbed. In Type 2,  the pancreas initially produces extra insulin, but eventually cannot keep up with production in order to keep blood sugar levels in check. Without insulin, sugar stays in the blood and can cause serious damage to the entire body.

Risk Factors for developing Type 2 diabetes

There isn’t a single cause for this form of diabetes, however, there are common risk factors associated with it:

  • Obesity
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Smoking
  • Genetics is also a factor in developing Type 2 diabetes. If you have an immediate family member with Type 2, you’re more likely to develop the disease.

Of the 415 million diabetes cases globally, 90% are estimated to be Type 2. There currently is no cure for it, but it can often be managed with lifestyle changes, diet, exercise, stress management, and medication. Everyone’s management technique differs. To learn what’s right for you, explore our resources on our website and discuss with your healthcare team strategies to try. It may take some trial and error, however, we believe every person with Type 2 can live a healthy life with it.

What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?

Type 1 diabetes differs from Type 2 in that Type 1 is an auto-immune condition that occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. People with Type 1 are insulin-dependent for life and there currently is no cure. Unless detected early, at diagnosis, people (with Type 2 or Type 1) have too much sugar built up in their blood and exhibit symptoms such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, weight gain or loss, recurrent infections, and headaches.

While Type 2 and Type 1 differ in nature, where they often meet is in complications. Prolonged levels of high blood sugar in anyone with diabetes can lead to long-term complications ranging from heart disease, kidney failure, foot, eye and nerve damage to skin disorders.

To learn more about Type 1 diabetes, visit our sister site, Beyond Type 1.

Finding a forum

Looking for a place to talk to others about managing Type 2 diabetes? Visit Tudiabetes (in English) or Estudiabetes (en español). You’ll be able to ask questions, share hacks and the moments of inspiration that help you or a family member thrive with Type 2.


Related Content:

See our complete guide to diabetes management, from food to meters to medication.

Newly diagnosed? We have a section just for you! Check out our page for people newly diagnosed with diabetes, including personal experiences.

Teach your family and friends about Type 2 diabetes and answer that “can you eat that?” question once and for all.