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Type 2 diabetes for teens

In adults, Type 2 is by far the most common type of diabetes, but most children actually have Type 1. Of the 35,000 young people under 19 with diabetes, only two per cent have Type 2.

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What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where you have too much glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood because your body can’t use it properly.

This is because your body's way of turning glucose into energy isn’t working as it should.

The key players

Insulin is a hormone (a chemical messenger) that carefully controls the amount of glucose in your blood. Insulin is made by a gland called the pancreas, which lies just behind your stomach.

Glucose is what our bodies use for energy. We get glucose from various types of food and drink, including starchy foods (like bread, rice and potatoes), fruit, some dairy foods, sugar and other sweet foods.

Our livers make glucose as well. So that our bodies work properly, all the cells that make up our body need glucose. Insulin acts as a 'key' to unlock the cells and let the glucose in.

What does Type 2 diabetes do to me?

When you have Type 2 diabetes, the glucose in your body is not turned into energy properly. 

Some of the glucose gets into your body cells where it’s turned into energy, but some stays locked outside the cells. This is because your body isn’t making enough insulin - or the insulin it is making isn’t working properly.

Type 2 diabetes can make you:

  • want to go to the loo all the time to pass urine
  • feel very thirsty and drink a lot
  • feel very tired
  • have blurry vision
  • get thrush or genital itching.

Once you start getting treatment for your Type 2 diabetes, these symptoms will start to go away again. Unfortunately, if you have Type 2 diabetes you also have a bit more of a chance of having other health problems either now or in the future.

We often call these “complications”. But looking after your diabetes carefully and getting treatment from your doctor will help reduce your chances of getting any other health problems or look after any ones you might already have.

Why did I get Type 2 diabetes?

Years ago we hardly ever heard of young people getting Type 2 diabetes. But in recent years it’s getting more common, and doctors are putting a lot of it down to not being very active and being overweight.

Young people nowadays tend to spend more time at the computer or watching TV rather than playing outside and running about. It doesn't mean that everyone who prefers a computer game to a football game is going to get Type 2 diabetes, but we know that being less active puts you at more risk.

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

  • you’re in your teens
  • you’re black or South Asian.
  • other people in your family have Type 2 diabetes
  • you’re overweight

Is there another type of diabetes?

Yes – and not surprisingly it’s called Type 1 diabetes. There are also some other really rare types of diabetes like Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY) and neonatal diabetes.

Sometimes it’s difficult for doctors to work out exactly what type of diabetes you have, so you might need some extra blood tests. Once they know, they’ll make sure they’re giving you the right sort of treatment.

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