Type 2 diabetes is a disease where your body can’t use energy from food properly. Your pancreas produces insulin (a hormone) to help your cells use glucose (sugar). But over time your pancreas makes less insulin and the cells resist the insulin. This causes too much sugar to build up in your blood. High blood sugar levels from Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, stroke or death.
Type 2 diabetes is not the same as Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin. In Type 2, your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, and the insulin it is making doesn’t always work as it should. Both types are forms of diabetes mellitus, meaning they lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Type 2 diabetes usually affects older adults, though it’s becoming more common in children. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but people of any age can get it.
You’re more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes if you:
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. About 1 in 10 Americans have the disease. It’s the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas makes less insulin than the body needs, and the body cells stop responding to insulin. They don’t take in sugar as they should. Sugar builds up in your blood. When cells don’t respond to insulin, this is called insulin resistance. It's usually caused by:
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes tend to develop slowly over time. They can include:
Potential complications of high blood sugar levels from Type 2 diabetes can include:
Rarely, Type 2 diabetes leads to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a life-threatening condition that causes your blood to become acidic. People with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to have DKA.
The following blood tests help your healthcare provider diagnose diabetes:
|Type of test||Diabetes (mg/dL)|
|Fasting glucose test||126 or higher|
|Random (anytime) |
|200 or higher|
|A1c test||6.5% or higher|
|Oral glucose |
|200 or higher|
There’s no cure for Type 2 diabetes. But you can manage the condition by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking medication if needed. Work with your healthcare provider to manage your:
Ask your healthcare provider or a nutritionist to recommend a meal plan that’s right for you. In general, a Type 2 diabetes meal plans should include:
Some people take medication to manage diabetes, along with diet and exercise. Your healthcare provider may recommend oral diabetes medications. These are pills or liquids that you take by mouth. For example, a medicine called metformin helps control the amount of glucose your liver produces.
You can also take insulin to help your body use sugar more efficiently. Insulin comes in the following forms:
You can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes by:
Regular checkups and screenings with your healthcare provider can also help you keep your blood sugar in check.
If you have Type 2 diabetes, your outlook depends on how well you manage your blood glucose level. Untreated Type 2 diabetes can lead to a range of life-threatening health conditions. Diabetes requires lifelong management.
It’s important to monitor diabetes very closely if you’re sick. Even a common cold can be dangerous if it interferes with your insulin and blood sugar levels. Make a “sick day” plan with your healthcare provider so you know how often to check your blood sugar and what medications to take.
Contact your provider right away if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Type 2 diabetes is a disease where your body doesn’t make enough insulin and can’t use sugar the way it should. Sugar, or glucose, builds up in your blood. High blood sugar can lead to serious health complications. But Type 2 diabetes is manageable. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you manage your blood sugar. You may also need medication or insulin. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you should monitor your blood sugar at home regularly and stay in close communication with your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/25/2021.