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What is type 2 diabetes mellitus?

Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes produce insulin. However, the insulin produced is either not enough or doesn’t work properly in the body. When there is not enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose (sugar) cannot get into the body’s cells for use as energy. This causes blood glucose to rise.

Type 2 diabetes is most common in people over age 40 who are overweight. Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage it by controlling their weight, watching their diets, and exercising regularly. Others might also need to take one or more tablets of an oral glucose-lowering medication or insulin injections to help lower blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes also imposes a significant emotional and economic burden. Type 2 diabetes remains the leading cause of blindness, non-traumatic amputations, and chronic kidney failure requiring dialysis.

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

  • Increasing age
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Race or ethnic background (The risk of developing diabetes is increased in African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asians.)
  • A history of gestational diabetes (developing diabetes during pregnancy) or delivery of babies heavier than 9 pounds

Other risk factors that might increase the risk of developing diabetes include smoking, prolonged and heavy alcohol consumption, and the use of certain drugs.

How can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

Certain risk factors such as age, family history, and ethnicity cannot be modified. Lifestyle modification with changes in diet, resulting in significant weight loss, plus physical activity has recently been shown to decrease or slow down the onset of type 2 diabetes.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/2/2013...#7073