What is Type 2 Diabetes?


Note: This article is part of our library of resources for Forms of 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

These may be factors for developing type 2 diabetes, and are not exclusive causes:

  • Obesity
  • Lifestyle
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Genetic predisposition found in UAE research (Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans)

Of the 415 million diabetes cases globally, 90 percent are estimated to be type 2. There currently is no cure for Type 2 diabetes, but it can often be managed.

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

Type 1 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, footeye and nerve damage to skin disorders.

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.


Additional Reading

To Reveal or Not to Reveal Your Diagnosis?

Hear how this woman handles the uncomfortable work situation when she is offered sweets.

Diabetes is Not Your Fault

Dealing with a diabetes diagnosis is hard enough and blaming yourself does not help. Learn that you are not alone and how to manage this emotionally impacting health reality.

Read about how this woman was misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.