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Whittington Health NHSUCL

What is type 2 diabetes?


Key facts:
Type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition that can lead to serious health problems.
You can reduce the risk of problems by controlling your blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cholesterol.  Eating healthily, being physically active and not smoking are also important.

What is type 2 diabetes?  

Our 7-minute video provides an overview of what type 2 diabetes is and what happens inside the body.

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What is Type 2 Diabetes?

You can develop type 2 diabetes for two reasons:

  • your body can still make some insulin, but not enough to cope with glucose (sugar) in food
  • your body can still make some insulin but the insulin does not work properly (known as insulin resistance).

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes (90 out of 100 people with diabetes worldwide have type 2 diabetes), and treatment can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, weight loss, tablets and injections.

You may sometimes hear type 2 diabetes called non-insulin dependent diabetes. This is an old term which isn't used much any more. It refers to the fact that not all people with type 2 diabetes will be treated with insulin, although some may need to be. 

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

The symptoms of diabetes may develop very slowly, and some people may not experience any symptoms at all. This means that people can live with type 2 diabetes for many years without realising they have it.

Symptoms of untreated type 2 diabetes include:

  • frequently needing to urinate
  • feeling thirsty
  • feeling tired
  • blurry vision
  • itchy skin, particularly around genitals
  • sudden weight loss.

See also above: Diagnosis | Glucose | Inside the body | The pancreas | Insulin