The Cleveland Clinic

Diabetes: Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, often called non-insulin dependant diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90% - 95% of the 18.2 million people with diabetes.

In type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes produce insulin; however, the insulin their pancreas secretes is either not enough or the body is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly. This is called insulin-resistance. When there isn't enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose (sugar) can't get into the body's cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the body's cells are not able to function properly. Other problems associated with the build up of glucose in the blood include:

  • Dehydration. The build up of sugar in the blood can cause an increase in urination (to try to clear the sugar from the body). When the kidneys lose the glucose through the urine, a large amount of water is also lost, causing dehydration.
  • Hyperosmolar nonketotic diabetic coma. When a person with type 2 diabetes becomes severely dehydrated and is not able to drink enough fluids to make up for the fluid losses, they may develop this life-threatening complication.
  • Damage to the body. Over time, the high glucose levels in the blood may damage the nerves and small blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, and heart and predispose a person to atherosclerosis (hardening) of the large arteries that can cause heart attack and stroke.

    Type 2 Diabetes

Who Gets Type 2 Diabetes?

Anyone can get type 2 diabetes. However, those at highest risk for the disease are those who are obese or overweight, women who have had gestational diabetes, people with family members who have type 2 diabetes and people who have metabolic syndrome (a cluster of problems that include high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low good 'HDL' cholesterol and a high bad 'LDL' cholesterol and high blood pressure). In addition, older people are more susceptible to developing the disease since aging makes the body less tolerant of sugars.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Although it is more common than type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is less well understood. It is likely caused by multiple factors and not a single problem.

Type 2 diabetes can run in families, but the exact nature of how it's inherited or the identity of a single genetic factor is not known.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes vary from person to person but may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and occasionally vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
  • Frequent infections of the skin, urinary tract or vagina

Rarely, a person may be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after presenting to the hospital in a diabetic coma.

How Is It Diagnosed?

If your health care provider suspects type 2 diabetes, he or she will first check for abnormalities in your blood (high blood glucose level). In addition, he may look for glucose or ketone bodies in your urine.

Tests used to diagnose type 2 diabetes include a fasting plasma glucose test or a casual plasma glucose test.

Often the diagnosis of another condition may cause the doctor to suspect diabetes may also be present. For example, if you have abnormally high triglycerides in your blood based on the result of a cholesterol test or if you are diagnosed with a diabetes-related eye disease your doctor may decide to test your blood sugars.

How Is Type 2 Diabetes Managed?

Many people with type 2 diabetes live long, healthy lives. The key to good health is keeping your blood sugar levels within your target range, which can be done with meal planning, exercise and medication which may include pills and insulin.