Type 2 Diabetes FAQ
Quick answers to the most common questions
What is type 2 diabetes? Type 2 diabetes is when your body doesn’t use insulin properly. In type 2 diabetes, some people are insulin resistant, meaning that their body produces a lot of insulin but can’t use it effectively. Some people with type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin. Type 2 is different from type 1 diabetes because in type 1, your body doesn’t produce any insulin at all.
Whether you’re insulin resistant or have too little insulin, the end result is the same in type 2 diabetes: your blood glucose level is too high.
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes (also called type 2 diabetes mellitus) develop gradually—so gradually, in fact, that it’s possible to miss them or to not connect them as related symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of type 2 diabetes:
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Slow wound healing
- Blurry vision
For more information on the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, please read our article on type 2 symptoms
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes has several causes: genetics and lifestyle are the most important ones. A combination of these factors can cause insulin resistance, when your body doesn’t use insulin as well as it should. Insulin resistance is the most common cause of type 2 diabetes.
What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes has many risk factors associated with it, mostly related to lifestyle choices. But in order to develop insulin resistance (an inability for your body to use insulin as it should) and type 2 diabetes, you must also have a genetic abnormality. Along the same lines, some people with type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin; that is also due to a genetic abnormality.
That is, not everyone can develop type 2 diabetes. Additionally, not everyone with a genetic abnormality will develop type 2 diabetes; these risk factors and lifestyle choices influence the development.
Other risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
- Family history: Type 2 diabetes has a hereditary factor. If someone in your close family has (or had) it, you are more likely to develop it.
- Race/ethnicity: Certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, including African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
- Age: The older you are, the more at risk you are for developing type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: If you developed diabetes while you were pregnant, that increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on.
- Other health problems: High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol (the “bad” LDL cholesterol) increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes complications. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
How is type 2 diabetes treated?
Type 2 diabetes is treated with a combination of healthy meal planning, physical activity, medications, and perhaps insulin.
Healthy meal planning changes and exercise are the cornerstones of type 2 diabetes treatment. They often help people lose weight, which in turn can help their bodies use insulin better. Many people, when they’re first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, are overweight (BMI >25), so making healthy lifestyle choices—such as reducing calories and portion sizes and being more active—can help them get to a healthier weight.
You can get some tips on keeping healthy eating habits
in our article that explains how to count carbs and make good food choices.
For tips on how to get started on an exercise plan—and why you should exercise—read our article on what types of exercise
are good for people with type 2 diabetes.
To get better control of your blood glucose levels, you may need to take medication. Learn about your options in our medications for type 2 diabetes
And finally, some people with type 2 diabetes do have to take insulin. Read why in the insulin for type 2
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2009. Diabetes Care. 2009;32:S13-61.
- Becker G. Type 2 Diabetes: An Essential Guide for the newly Diagnosed. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Marlowe & Company; 2007.
- McCulloch D. Patient information: Diabetes type 2: Overview. UpToDate Web site. January 30, 2009. Available at: http://www.uptodate.com/patients/content/topic.do?topicKey=~n0K0MIfI1iZs.&selectedTitle=5~150&source=search_result. Accessed April 20, 2009.
- McCulloch D. Patient information: Diabetes mellitus type 2: Overview. UpToDate Web site. December 4, 2008. Available at: http://www.uptodate.com/patients/content/topic.do?topicKey=~X0jjLnBn4._ko&selectedTitle=4~150&source=search_result. Accessed April 20, 2009.