What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

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Harvard Medical School
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What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes Type 2
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What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
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Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body cannot make efficient use of insulin to move glucose from the bloodstream to the cells that need it for energy.
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2013-07-16

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
 
Many people have learned to think of diabetes as a "sugar" problem. But the problem is not about how much sugar you have. It's about how sugar is moved, stored and used by the body.
 
Your muscles and other tissues in the body use sugar (glucose) as their major energy source. Sugar inside your working tissues is a good thing! The hormone insulin makes it possible for your body tissues, particularly your muscles and liver, to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. In a normal body, the tissues work together with insulin as an efficient team. Just a small amount of insulin is needed to help move sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells.
 
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is also known as type 2 diabetes. In this disease, the body tissues need more help from insulin in order to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. Normal amounts of insulin do not trigger enough sugar movement. Larger and larger amounts of insulin are needed to do the same job. Doctors call this insulin resistance.
 
If your body has insulin resistance, your pancreas will try to help by producing more insulin. This may keep the sugar moving from the blood into your tissues. But over time this may not be enough. As insulin resistance becomes stronger or as your pancreas wears out from its extra efforts, your body may not be able to keep up with the demand for extra insulin. Sugar then builds up in the bloodstream. Meanwhile, your muscles and other working tissues go "hungry."
 
Doctors diagnose diabetes when you have a high level of sugar in the bloodstream. More than 90% of all people with diabetes mellitus have type 2 diabetes (from insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes causes serious health problems. The problems are related to high blood-sugar levels, high insulin need and sugar-hunger in the tissues.
 
It usually takes time for a person to develop insulin resistance. That's why type 2 diabetes mellitus usually starts in adulthood after age 40. It used to be named "adult-onset diabetes."
 
Insulin resistance (and, consequently, type 2 diabetes) is more likely to develop if you have a family history of diabetes or if you are overweight. Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes at a much earlier age. It can develop even in childhood or the teen years.

 

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Last updated October 28, 2013


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