Type 2 diabetes is primarily a disorder in which the cells in the body are not responding to the high levels of insulin circulating in the body. The body becomes increasingly resistant to insulin. In end-stage type 2 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas are not producing enough insulin.

Insulin is a hormone normally produced by the pancreas. This hormone helps your body convert food into energy. Without insulin, glucose (sugar) from the food you eat cannot enter cells, and glucose builds up in the blood. Your body tissues become starved for energy.

How Type 2 Diabetes Occurs

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Type 2 diabetes, which was formerly called adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes. Of the nearly 23.6 million Americans with diabetes, 90%-95% have type 2 diabetes. People usually develop type 2 diabetes after age 45, but it can occur at any age—even during childhood.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes diagnosed in children and adolescents. This has been blamed, in part, on the increase in childhood obesity , resulting from poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle.

Type 2 diabetes occurs because either one or both of the following conditions exist:

  • Beta cells in the pancreas do not make enough insulin relative to the demands of the body
  • Fat, muscle, or liver cells do not respond to the high levels of insulin (called insulin resistance)

Being overweight or obese is the primary cause of insulin resistance, and it increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

The key to minimizing complications is keeping your blood sugar level within a healthy range. When your blood sugar level is not within the ideal range, you can experience the following problems:

  • In the short-term:
    • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
    • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • In the long-term:
    • Blindness
    • Kidney disease
    • Heart disease
    • Stroke
    • Nerve disease (can cause numbness, pain, or altered sensation, such as a burning feeling in the legs and feet)
    • Loss of limbs (when amputations are needed because of infection, poor circulation, or nerve disease)
    • Impotence

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?
What are the treatments for type 2 diabetes?
Are there screening tests for type 2 diabetes?
What are the complications of type 2 diabetes?
How can I reduce my risk of type 2 diabetes?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with type 2 diabetes?
Where can I get more information about type 2 diabetes?