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Type 2 diabetes

3-minute read

Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body cannot maintain healthy levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Type 1 diabetes develops when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body does not make enough insulin or does not use it well.

Type 2 diabetes may be managed with healthy eating and physical activity. But if these lifestyle changes aren’t enough to control blood glucose levels, diabetes medications are also used.

What is type 2 diabetes?

The pancreas is an organ below and behind the stomach. One of its functions is to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin moves glucose into the cells to be stored and used for energy.

In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin. This causes glucose to stay in the blood, leading to a higher than normal level of glucose in the body.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

The cause of type 2 diabetes is not known. However, risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • family history
  • a low level of physical activity
  • poor diet
  • excess weight around the waist

Preventing type 2 diabetes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by:

  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • regular physical activity
  • eating healthily

Type 2 diabetes symptoms

Many people with type 2 diabetes do not experience any symptoms at first. If they do have symptoms, these may include:

  • being very thirsty
  • passing more urine
  • feeling tired
  • feeling hungry
  • having cuts that heal slowly

Over time, diabetes can lead to complications, which can then cause other symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you have diabetes, you will probably need to have a blood test to check your glucose level.

Type 2 diabetes complications

Treating type 2 diabetes is important to prevent long-term complications, such as:

Type 2 diabetes treatments

Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed initially by making lifestyle changes, such as eating more healthily and being physically active. If these are not enough to control blood glucose levels, medications can also be used.

There are many types of diabetes medications, which can work in different ways to control blood glucose. Over time, your diabetes can change, meaning your medications may need to change too. For example, you may need more than one medication to control your blood glucose levels.

Living with type 2 diabetes

You can successfully manage diabetes by:

  • learning to control and monitor your diabetes, with the help of your doctor
  • following a healthy diet
  • being physically active
  • taking medication as prescribed

You can join the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) to access support services, including free or subsidised products. Visit Diabetes Australia for information and resources.

Last reviewed: July 2018

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