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Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose (often called blood sugar) is too high. Blood glucose comes from the food you eat It is your body’s main source of energy. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the glucose get into your cells so it can be used for energy. When you have Type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. This causes too much glucose to stay in your blood. Then your cells don’t get enough.

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. That is about 1 in every 10 people and 90 to 95 percent of them have Type 2 diabetes. In most cases, people who develop Type 2 diabetes are age 45 and older. It also is becoming more common for children, teens and young adults to develop it. However, there is some good news. You can prevent or delay developing Type 2 diabetes with some lifestyle changes.

What are the symptoms?

Some people never have noticeable symptoms. Others develop Type 2 diabetes very slowly. They may not notice the symptoms right away. The most common symptoms are:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Sores that heal slowly
  • Frequent infections of the skin, urinary tract or vagina

What causes Type 2 diabetes? 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It is caused by several things, including lifestyle factors and genetics.

Being overweight and physically inactive

You are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes if you are not physically active and are overweight or obese. Extra weight sometimes causes insulin resistance and is common in people with Type 2 diabetes. The location of body fat also makes a difference. Extra belly fat is linked to insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and heart and blood vessel disease.

Insulin resistance

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance. This is a condition in which muscle, liver and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. The pancreas makes more insulin at first. Then as time passes, the pancreas can’t make enough and blood glucose levels increase.

Family history

According to the National Institutes of Health, Type 2 diabetes does not have a clear pattern of inheritance. However, many affected individuals have at least one close family member with the disease. The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases with the number of affected family members. The increased risk is likely due, in part, to shared genetic factors. It is also related to a person's lifestyle (such as eating and exercise habits) that is shared by family members.

Family history also can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. One factor can be a person’s tendency to become overweight or obese.

How is Type 2 diabetes treated? 

You may be able to manage Type 2 diabetes through healthy eating and physical activity. Your doctor may prescribe medication such as insulin or other injectable or oral medications. These medicines help manage blood sugar and avoid complications. It’s important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol within the range prescribed by your doctor. Also, you should get necessary screening tests such as kidney function tests, dental exams and diabetic eye exams. 

Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) Programs 

Diabetes education can help you manage your blood sugar. Diabetes educators work with you to develop a plan to stay healthy. They also can help you with the tools and ongoing support. Search for education programs near you:


Last updated November 21, 2019