Looking for more information about type 2 diabetes? We’ve got all you need to know.
What is type 2 diabetes?
What causes type 2 diabetes?
We all need insulin to live. It does an essential job. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your body still breaks down carbohydrate from your food and drink and turns it into glucose. The pancreas then responds to this by releasing insulin. But because this insulin can’t work properly, your blood sugar levels keep rising. This means more insulin is released.
For some people with type 2 diabetes this can eventually tire the pancreas out, meaning their body makes less and less insulin. This can lead to even higher blood sugar levels and mean you are at risk of hyperglycaemia.
Is type 2 diabetes serious?
Around 90% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 2. It is serious condition and can be lifelong.
Having type 2 diabetes without treatment means that high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage parts of your body, including your eyes, heart and feet. These are called the complications of diabetes. But with the right treatment and care, you can live well with type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk of developing them.
Learn more about diabetes complications.
Managing type 2 diabetes
Learning how to live with type 2 diabetes can be challenging, but we’ll help you to discover what works for you. Some people can manage it through healthier eating, being more active or losing weight. But eventually most people will need medication to bring their blood sugar down to their target level.
Learn more about managing your diabetes.
Can type 2 diabetes be cured?
There isn't a permanent cure for type 2 diabetes yet. But strong evidence shows that some people can put their type 2 diabetes into remission by losing weight. Remission in type 2 diabetes means your blood sugar levels are below the diabetes range, and you don't need to take diabetes medication.
It can be life-changing, but it's not possible for everyone.
Learn more about diabetes remission.
Type 2 diabetes treatment
The treatments for type 2 diabetes help to manage blood sugar levels and also reduce your risk of diabetes complications.
- eating healthy food, being as active as you can and keeping to a healthy weight
- medications such as tablets and injections, that may include insulin
- weight loss surgery
- or other ways to put type 2 diabetes into remission. This means that type 2 diabetes goes away for some people, and they don't need to take diabetes medication anymore.
Many people with type 2 diabetes will need to be on a combination of these treatments. Because everyone's different, it can take time to figure out what works best for you. Your diabetes healthcare team will talk to you about the best way to manage your diabetes.
Learn more about diabetes treatments.
Type 2 and insulin
You may not need to use insulin straight away but many people with type 2 diabetes need to use insulin as treatment at some point. If you need to start insulin treatment, remember that this isn’t your fault.
Some people have very high blood sugar levels when they are first diagnosed. Insulin can be used as a short-term treatment to help quickly bring down your blood sugar levels.
Some people may need to take insulin for a particular reason, like during pregnancy, a severe illness, or after surgery. But you may also need to start insulin as a treatment if other medications haven’t helped managed your blood sugar levels or aren’t appropriate for you.
When you start taking insulin, you may notice that you start to put on weight. There are lots of reasons for this, like how much insulin you take, your diet and the type of insulin you’re taking. If you’re worried about putting on weight, or you’d like some help losing weight, then we’re here to help.
It’s still important to keep going to your appointments and manage your condition with healthy lifestyle choices. Staying active and eating a healthy diet will reduce the risk of complications from your diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms
Type 2 diabetes develops more slowly than type 1 diabetes. A lot of people don’t get any symptoms, or don’t notice them. But you may notice:
- going to the toilet more often, especially at night
- feeling more tired, because your body can't get enough glucose in to your cells for energy
- losing weight without trying
- genital itching or thrush
- cuts and wounds taking longer to heal
- blurred vision
- feeling extremely thirsty.
Learn more about the symptoms of diabetes.
Risk factors of type 2 diabetes
Some things can increase your chance of getting type 2 diabetes. Because the symptoms of type 2 diabetes are not always obvious, it’s really important to be aware of these risk factors. They can include:
- Age. You’re more at risk if you’re white and over 40, or over 25 if you’re African Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian (Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi).
- If you are living with obesity or overweight.
- If your waist size is too large.
- Ethnicity. You're more at risk if you're of African Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian (Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi) or Chinese descent.
- Family history. For example, if you have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes.
- Medical history. For example if you have a history of high blood pressure, heart attack or strokes, gestational diabetes or severe mental illness.
We’ve got more information about all of the risk factors, as well as a Know Your Risk tool that can help you discover your risk of type 2 diabetes within minutes.
Learn more about the risk factors of type 2 diabetes.
Newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Knowing where to get started following a type 2 diagnosis can be a challenge. You may feel overwhelmed, but it’s important to know there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to managing the condition.
As well as using the information on this page to understand your condition, you can meet other people with type 2 diabetes in our Learning Zone. You’ll hear advice from others in your position, and get practical tools to help you feel more confident managing your condition.
Want to know more?
Whether you are newly diagnosed, looking to improve your diabetes management, or in need of information to support others, we are here to help. We’ve got lots more information about:
Preventing type 2 diabetes
Did you know that with the right support, up to halve of type 2 diabetes cases can be delayed of prevented? Our information about preventing type 2 will show you some of the steps that can help you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition.
Checking your blood sugar levels
Checking your blood sugar levels is an important part of managing your diabetes, so we’ll take you through how to check them and what your readings mean.
Living with type 2 diabetes
Having type 2 diabetes can bring up lots of questions about your lifestyle, but we’re here with the answers. From nutritional advice and recipes to help you know what to eat when you have type 2 diabetes, tips about diabetes and alcohol and keeping active and staying fit – we’re here to support you.
Type 2 diabetes is also associated with other health conditions, such as thyroid disease and dental problems. It’s important to be aware of these, so make sure to read our information about diabetes related conditions.
Type 2 diabetes is a complicated condition, and it may seem like there’s a lot of information to take in. If you’re feeling worried or stressed, we’ve got emotional support and advice that you may find helpful.
For some people, managing their diabetes with technology can be life-changing. But we also know it can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to begin. Our information and guidance about diabetes technology will help you understand what the different types of tech do and how to access them, so you can find what works for you.
Research into type 2 diabetes
We have been funding leading research projects into type 2 diabetes for over 80 years. You can find out more about the impact of this research, and how it has helped to transform the lives of millions living with the condition.