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Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, formerly called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or "adult onset" diabetes, so-called because it typically develops in adults over age 35, though it can develop at any age. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed more often in people who are overweight or obese, and who are not physically active.

Type 2 diabetes is an illness in which the body does not process ingested sugars (glucose) properly. In type 2, the body usually produces some insulin, but not enough to allow the glucose into the cells for the body to use as energy. In addition, there can be insulin resistance, where it becomes difficult for the body to use the insulin produced.

Type 2 diabetes is seen both in men and in women, though men have a slightly higher incidence of developing the disease. It can also be diagnosed in children, even though typically it is seen in adults.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

Several factors can cause type 2 diabetes, such as insulin resistance, heredity, being obese or overweight, lack of physical activity, abnormal glucose production by the liver, metabolic syndrome, problems with cell signaling, and beta cell dysfunction.

  • Insulin resistance is a condition where the body still produces insulin but is unable to use it properly. It is more commonly seen in people who are overweight or obese, and lead a sedentary lifestyle. This leads to a buildup of glucose (sugar) in the blood, which can result in prediabetes or diabetes.
  • Certain genes that affect insulin production rather than insulin resistance are a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Family history of diabetes is a risk factor, and people of certain races or ethnicities are at higher risk, including African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, some Asians, and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders.
  • Obesity and lack of physical activity can cause type 2 diabetes, especially excess abdominal fat.
  • Abnormal glucose production by the liver can also lead to high blood glucose levels.
  • Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that includes a group of risk factors such as higher than normal blood glucose levels, excess abdominal fat and increased waist size ("apple" shape), high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome can also increase risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Cell signaling – how cells communicate to regulate body processes – may not work properly and can set off a chain reaction that leads to diabetes.
  • Insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas may be damaged and this dysfunction can cause insufficient or abnormal insulin release. Glucose toxicity is when beta cells are damaged by high blood glucose.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/20/2016

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