What Is Type 2 Diabetes?


Type 2 diabetes ― a type of diabetes mellitus — is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces little to no insulin or the cells in the body can’t effectively use insulin (insulin resistance) to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, occurs most often in people over 40 years of age; however, with the rise of childhood obesity, it is occurring with increased frequency in children. An estimated 90% of individuals with a diabetes diagnosis have type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Areas of darkened skin, typically around the underarms and neck

Causes of type 2 diabetes

Although the exact cause is unknown, genetic and environmental factors play a key role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Not everyone who is overweight develops diabetes; however, carrying excess weight is linked to its development.

Prediabetes is often a precursor of type 2 diabetes as cells become resistant to insulin, and the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin. A prediabetes diagnosis involves blood sugar that is higher than normal but not high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

The risk factors of developing type 2 diabetes include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Excess body weight
  • Family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Age over 45
  • Medical conditions, such as prediabetes, gestational diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Physical inactivity
  • African American, Hispanic, Latino American, Pacific Islander, Native American or Asian race
  • Fat stored mainly in the abdominal region (males with a waist circumference above 40 inches [101.6 centimeters] and females with a waist circumference above 35 inches [88.9 centimeters]).