Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that makes your blood glucose (sugar) levels too high caused by insulin resistance and sometimes reduced insulin production. It’s also known as Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is type 2 diabetes

In Type 2 diabetes, your body becomes resistant to insulin, and sometimes your pancreas can't produce enough of it. Insulin is a hormone created in your pancreas which regulates glucose levels by allowing it to be absorbed into your body's cells for use or storage. Glucose (a type of sugar) gives you energy and helps your body function normally. When it can’t be absorbed by your body's cells, it just builds up in your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous.

Without treatment, there can be severe long-term damage to your body. It can affect your eyes, feet and kidneys.

Diabetes affects around four million people in the UK. Around nine in 10 people who have diabetes have Type 2. More and more people are being diagnosed, including children.

How to tell if you have type 2 diabetes

Signs of diabetes include feeling very tired and extremely thirsty. You might also need to urinate (pee) more than usual, especially at night. Other Type 2 diabetes symptoms include:

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Diagnosis and tests for type 2 diabetes

Your GP will talk to you about your symptoms and carry out blood tests to check your glucose levels. These may include:

  • Fasting blood sugar test (after you’ve gone without food overnight)
  • Glycated haemoglobin (HBA1C) test to check average blood sugar levels over the past few months
  • Oral glucose tolerance test, after you’ve gone without food overnight and then have a sugary drink so the levels can be tested
  • Random blood sugar test to check your glucose levels

If the tests show you have diabetes, your GP may carry out more tests to identify whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Causes of type 2 diabetes

The primary causes of Type 2 diabetes are being overweight and not exercising enough.

You’re also more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Have a family history of it
  • Have another medical condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome or metabolic syndrome
  • Take certain medications, eg statins

Common treatments for type 2 diabetes

You may be able to manage your diabetes symptoms by reducing your weight and having a healthy diet. Increasing the amount of exercise you do can also help. Your GP may prescribe tablets or insulin to control your blood glucose levels.

They may show you how to inject yourself or use an insulin pump. If you need to lose a lot of weight, your GP may refer to you a weight management service or consider whether obesity surgery, such as a gastric bypass or gastric sleeve, might help.