Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which your body can't normally process a sugar called glucose.

There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes used to be called "adult onset" diabetes. It is more common in adults, but you can get it at any age.

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but you can learn to manage it and keep your body healthy.


Glucose is a type of sugar that is absorbed into your bloodstream when you digest food.

As the amount of glucose in your blood goes up, clusters of special cells in your pancreas called beta-cells make insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that works like a gatekeeper. It allows glucose to move into the cells and tissues in your body, where it is used for energy and to help your organs function normally.

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't respond normally to insulin, or doesn't make enough of it.

This means you can't process glucose in your blood. Your body becomes starved for the fuel it needs to work well and stay healthy.


Type 2 diabetes usually develops slowly. Most people don't have any symptoms. It is often diagnosed during a routine blood test.

But some people may have symptoms such as:

  • Frequent urination

  • Thirst

  • Hunger

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Blurry vision, and

  • Slow healing

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are often similar to other medical conditions.

See your health care provider for a diagnosis. He or she will test your blood. Your blood will be tested after you've gone without food for a certain period of time.

A blood glucose test shows the amount of glucose in your blood at the time of the test. A normal blood glucose level is between 70 and 99 milligrams per deciliter.

If your fasting blood glucose test is 126 milligrams per deciliter or higher on two tests, you likely have diabetes.

An A-1-C blood test is also used for diagnosis. It shows your average blood glucose levels over several months.

A normal A-1-C level is 5.7 percent or lower. If your test results are high, you may have diabetes.

If needed, additional blood tests can help show whether you have type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes.


It's possible to manage type 2 diabetes with healthy eating and exercise alone. Your diabetes care team will teach you how different foods and activities affect your blood sugar.

If you're overweight, losing weight can also help control your blood sugar. Work with your health care provider to find a weight loss plan that works for you.

You may need to take medicine to control your blood sugar. You also may need to check your blood sugar level every day. If you need regular insulin therapy or if you are having symptoms, you may need to check it several times during the day.

You will also need to have regular A-1-C tests. This test shows how well you've been controlling your blood sugar over a three-month period.

Getting a cold or the flu can make it hard to control your blood sugar. You'll need to take extra care when you're sick. Your health care providers will recommend vaccinations to help you stay well.

Good blood sugar and blood pressure control helps reduce your risk for complications. Even with good control, you may need to see an eye doctor, dentist, and foot specialist on a routine basis for monitoring and treatment.

You should also wear a medical identification bracelet. This can help you get the right treatment during an emergency.

Things to Remember

Type 2 diabetes comes on slowly. Many people don't have symptoms.

You may be able to manage your type 2 diabetes with healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss alone.

After time, you may need medication, or even insulin to help you manage your blood sugar.

What We Have Learned

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't properly use insulin, or doesn't make enough of it.
True or false?
The answer is true. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes.

Getting sick doesn't affect your blood sugar levels.
True or false?
The answer is false. Illness can make blood sugar hard to control.