Type 2 diabetes makes it difficult for a person’s body to use the insulin it produces. This is called insulin resistance: the cells of your body do not easily recognize your insulin. If the insulin is not recognized, the "door" to your cells will not open to allow sugar to move from the blood into the cell. Sugar remains in the blood, leading to higher than normal blood sugars.
Who gets type 2 diabetes?
Anyone can develop diabetes. However, people who have a family history of diabetes are more likely to develop it. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes also increases as people become older, sedentary, or overweight. Ethnic background is also an important factor. People of Native American, Latino, African American, and Asian American descent are at greater risk for diabetes. Additionally, people who develop diabetes while pregnant (known as gestational diabetes) are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes . People of any age can get type 2 diabetes. It is seen most frequently in adults, but type 2 diabetes is rapidly increasing in children and adolescents. Federal statistics estimate that 18.2 million children and adults in the United States — 6.3 percent of the population — have diabetes. While an estimated 13 million of these have been diagnosed with diabetes, 5.2 million are estimated to have type 2 diabetes and not know it. Most people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes:
- A family history of diabetes
- An inactive lifestyle
- Over 45 years old
- African American, Asian American, Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Islander heritage
- History of gestational diabetes or having a baby weighing over 9 pounds
- Having high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased appetite
- Blurred vision
- Slowly healing infections or wounds
- Pain, numbness or tingling in the feet
Progression of type 2 diabetes
For those with a family history of type 2 diabetes, weight gain and an inactive lifestyle can increase insulin resistance. As insulin resistance increases, your body fights to maintain normal blood sugar levels. It does this by increasing the amount of insulin made in the pancreas. During this phase you may develop pre-diabetes (glucose intolerance). The extra insulin helps for a while, but eventually your pancreas becomes tired and can no longer produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugars. It is at this point you may be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Over time, the pancreas of people with type 2 diabetes may naturally lose its ability to make insulin. The pancreas of people with type 2 diabetes over time will naturally lose its ability to produce insulin. Therefore it is expected that you may move from controlling diabetes with meal planning and exercise to adding oral medications and possibly insulin. Remember, it is most important to maintain normal blood sugars, and you may need to add oral medication or insulin to meal planning and physical activity.
Treatment for type 2 diabetes
Treatment for type 2 diabetes focuses on keeping your blood sugars as close to normal as possible. This is the best way to prevent the complications of diabetes. The components of diabetes care include:
- Glucose Monitoring
- Meal Planning
- Physical Activity
- Medication (pills or insulin)
- Screening for and Treatment of Complications
How will type 2 diabetes affect my life?
You can live a long, healthy life if you keep your diabetes in good control. Diabetes care needs to be an important part of your life so you can accomplish everything else you want to do. Work with your healthcare team to develop a self-care plan that works for you.
Get help at the University of Michigan
If you have type 2 diabetes, there are several ways you can be involved with the care and resources at U-M. To make an appointment with a clinician, reach out to one of the locations listed below. You can take an education class on type 2 led by a group of diabetes and self-care experts from U-M—learn more about our classes.