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Type 2 Diabetes Overview

Do you know what type 2 diabetes is — and whether you are at risk?

doctor talking to an older female patient

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. With type 2, the body doesn't use insulin properly and eventually stops making enough of it to keep up with the body's need for insulin to control blood sugar. Insulin is made in the pancreas and moves blood sugar (glucose) from the blood into cells. Without this process, too much sugar stays in the blood. Consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to heart or kidney disease, vision loss or blindness, nerve damage and other problems.

Risk factors of type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle and genetic traits put people at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Some of those factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being 45 or older
  • Having a close family member who has diabetes
  • Being physically inactive
  • Being African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian-American or a Pacific Islander
  • Having delivered a baby who weighed 9 pounds or more or having a history of gestational diabetes
  • Having blood pressure of 140/90 or higher
  • An HDL cholesterol below 35
  • A triglyceride level greater than 250
  • Women with polycystic ovary syndrome
  • An A1C level of 5.7 percent or higher or abnormal values in previous blood sugar tests
  • Having a history of heart disease

Should you be tested?

Some people with type 2 diabetes do not have symptoms. However, if you have any of the risk factors — especially if you are overweight — talk to your doctor about whether you should be screened.

Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Speak to your doctor if you have these signs or symptoms of diabetes:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger or thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss

Other symptoms may include fatigue, blurred vision or slow healing of wounds or sores.

How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

A fasting blood glucose test is used to measure blood sugar and can help determine whether you have or are at risk for diabetes. If your blood sugar level suggests diabetes, your doctor may repeat the test to confirm the results. There are two other tests used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. Those tests are the A1C test and the two-hour oral glucose tolerance test. The A1C test measures your average blood glucose level over the past two or three months.. The two-hour oral glucose tolerance test gives your doctor an idea of how your body processes glucose.

Diabetes can be managed

Eating a healthy diet, getting physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and taking medications as ordered by your doctor can help manage diabetes. Seeing your doctor regularly is also important in managing your diabetes. A diabetes care team can help you maintain a healthy blood sugar balance and a healthful lifestyle. This team typically includes a doctor, eye doctor, foot doctor, nurse, dietitian and other specialists to manage cardiovascular risk and other conditions.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes–2015. Accessed: September 25, 2015.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Diagnosis of diabetes and prediabetes. Accessed: September 25, 2015.
American Diabetes Association. Type 2. Accessed: September 25, 2015.

Last Updated: September 30, 2015