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Type 2 Diabetes

If you have Type 2 diabetes, your body’s cells can’t properly take up sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat. If left untreated, Type 2 diabetes can cause such health problems as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. You can manage this disease by making lifestyle changes, taking medications and/or insulin and seeing your provider for regular check-ins.

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease where your body can’t use energy from food properly. Your pancreas produces insulin (a hormone) to help your cells use glucose (sugar). But over time your pancreas makes less insulin and the cells resist the insulin. This causes too much sugar to build up in your blood. High blood sugar levels from Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, stroke or death.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 diabetes: What’s the difference?

Type 2 diabetes is not the same as Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin. In Type 2, your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, and the insulin it is making doesn’t always work as it should. Both types are forms of diabetes mellitus, meaning they lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Type 2 diabetes usually affects older adults, though it’s becoming more common in children. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but people of any age can get it.

Who is at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes?

You’re more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
  • Are older than 45.
  • Have overweight/obesity.
  • Don’t exercise.
  • Had gestational diabetes while pregnant.
  • Have a family history of diabetes.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Have prediabetes (higher than normal blood sugar, though not high enough to be Type 2 diabetes).

How common is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. About 1 in 10 Americans have the disease. It’s the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

What causes Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas makes less insulin than the body needs, and the body cells stop responding to insulin. They don’t take in sugar as they should. Sugar builds up in your blood. When cells don’t respond to insulin, this is called insulin resistance. It’s usually caused by:

  • Lifestyle factors, including obesity and a lack of exercise.
  • Genetics, or abnormal genes, that prevent cells from working as they should.

What are the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes?

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes tend to develop slowly over time. They can include:

What are the complications of high blood sugar levels?

Potential complications of high blood sugar levels from Type 2 diabetes can include:

Rarely, Type 2 diabetes leads to a condition called diabetes-related ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a life-threatening condition that causes your blood to become acidic. People with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to have DKA.

How is Type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

The following blood tests help your healthcare provider diagnose diabetes:

  • Fasting plasma glucose test: checks your blood glucose level. This test is best done in the office in the morning after an eight hour fast (nothing to eat or drink except sips of water).
  • Random plasma glucose test: This lab test can be done any time without the need to fast.
  • Glycolated hemoglobin testing (A1c) measures your average blood sugar levels over three months.
  • Oral glucose tolerance testing checks your blood sugar levels before and after you drink a sugary beverage. The test evaluates how your body handles glucose.
Fasting glucose test126 or higher
Random (anytime)
glucose test
200 or higher
A1c test6.5% or higher
Oral glucose
tolerance test
200 or higher

Will I need medication or insulin for Type 2 diabetes?

Some people take medication to manage diabetes, along with diet and exercise. Your healthcare provider may recommend oral diabetes medications. These are pills or liquids that you take by mouth. For example, a medicine called metformin helps regulate the amount of glucose your liver produces.

You can also take insulin to help your body use sugar more efficiently. Insulin comes in the following forms:

  • Injectable insulin is a shot you give yourself. Most people inject insulin into a fleshy part of their body such as their belly. Injectable insulin is available in a vial or an insulin pen.
  • Inhaled insulin is inhaled through your mouth. It is only available in a rapid-acting form.
  • Insulin pumps deliver insulin continuously, similar to how a healthy pancreas would. Pumps release insulin into your body through a tiny cannula (thin, flexible tube). Pumps connect to a computerized device that lets you manage the dose and frequency of insulin.

How can I prevent Type 2 diabetes?

You can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes by:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Exercising.
  • Losing weight.

Regular checkups and screenings with your healthcare provider can also help you keep your blood sugar in check.

What is the outlook for Type 2 diabetes?

If you have Type 2 diabetes, your outlook depends on how well you manage your blood glucose level. Untreated Type 2 diabetes can lead to a range of life-threatening health conditions. Diabetes requires lifelong management.

Type 2 Diabetes

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