Type 2 diabetes, once called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90% to 95% of the 26 million Americans with diabetes.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, the bodies of people with type 2 diabetes make insulin. But either their pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin well enough. 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 buildup of glucose in the blood include:

  • Damage to the body. Over time, the high glucose levels in the blood can damage the nerves and small blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, and heart and lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries that can cause heart attack and stroke.
  • Dehydration. The buildup of sugar in the blood can cause an increase in urination, causing dehydration.
  • Diabetic coma (hyperosmolar nonketotic diabetic coma). When a person with type 2 diabetes becomes very ill or severely dehydrated and is not able to drink enough fluids to make up for the fluid losses, they may develop this life-threatening complication.

 

Type 2 Diabetes in Children

More and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Find out about type 2 diabetes symptoms in children, the diagnosis, and the treatment of type 2 diabetes in childhood. If your child is at risk for childhood diabetes, it’s important to learn specific self-care tips to help prevent diabetes.

For more detail, see Type 2 Diabetes in Children.

Who Gets Type 2 Diabetes?

Anyone can get type 2 diabetes. But those at highest risk for the disease are those who:

  • Are over 45
  • Are obese or overweight
  • Have had gestational diabetes
  • Have family members who have type 2 diabetes
  • Have prediabetes
  • Don’t exercise
  • Have low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are members of certain racial or ethnic groups

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Although it is more common than type 1 diabetes, the causes of type 2 diabetes are less well understood. It is likely caused by many things.

Type 2 diabetes can run in families, but the how it’s inherited is not known.