Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Type 2 diabetes

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Type 2 diabetes develops when the body does not make enough insulin.
  • You need insulin to process the glucose in your food to give you energy.
  • Symptoms include feeling tired, hungry or thirsty, and passing more urine.
  • Lack of exercise, weight gain and a poor diet increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Keeping active, with a healthy diet and weight, can help prevent or delay it.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body does not make enough insulin or does not use insulin efficiently. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to break down glucose (sugar) in food so it can be 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.

illustration of diabetes
Insulin and glucose production in type 2 diabetes: Insulin (green dots) is produced in the pancreas, and acts with glucose (blue dots) to regulate energy in the body's cells.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

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.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use our diabetes Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

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

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use our Risk Checker to find out.

NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT? — Use our BMI Calculator to find out if your weight and waist size are in a healthy range.

How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you have diabetes, you will probably need to have a blood test to assess your glucose level. It is important for diabetes to be diagnosed early, whether it’s type 1 or type 2 diabetes. That way, it can be better controlled and complications can be avoided.

During a test, blood is taken from a vein and sent to a pathology lab. The tests that can be done include:

  • a fasting sugar (glucose) test — fasting is required for at least 8 hours, which may mean not eating or drinking overnight
  • a random glucose test taken at any time during the day
  • an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) — a patient who has fasted drinks a sugary drink and then has a blood test done 1 and then 2 hours later

Watch the first video below to learn why it’s important to detect undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. The second video tells you all about the HbA1c test, another type of blood test that can be used to diagnose diabetes.

Video provided by Diabetes Australia.

Video provided by Lab Tests Online

How is type 2 diabetes managed?

Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed — at least as a first step — by making lifestyle changes, including:

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

There are many types of diabetes medications and they work in different ways to control blood glucose. If you have diabetes, over time it 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.

If you are living with type 2 diabetes, 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.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any of the following symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss them since they might indicate undiagnosed type 2 diabetes:

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

Your doctor will look at your symptoms, review any risk factors you have for type 2 diabetes and they will recommend you be tested if needed.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — Our Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use our Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

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

Complications of type 2 diabetes

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

Watch this video to learn how to take care of your feet if you have diabetes. The video is available in multiple languages.

Video provided by Diabetes Victoria.

Other questions you might have

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is associated with hereditary factors and lifestyle risk factors such as poor diet, insufficient physical activity and being overweight or obese.

What are the first signs of type 2 diabetes?

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 than usual, feeling tired, feeling hungry or having cuts that heal slowly.

Can type 2 diabetes be cured?

Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, but people with the condition may be able to manage their type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes and, if needed, diabetes medications to control blood sugar levels.

Resources and support

For more information and support, try these resources:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

This information has been developed for indigenous communities:

Other languages

Do you prefer other languages than English? These websites offer translated information about diabetes:

Apps and tools

You might find these apps and tools helpful:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Complications of diabetes type 2 | Diabetes NSW & ACT

If left undiagnosed or unchecked for too long, complications of diabetes type 2 can become serious & life threatening. Find out how you can reduce your risk

Read more on Diabetes NSW and ACT website

Managing your diabetes

Managing your diabetes How diabetes is managed is dependent on the type of diabetes and each individual

Read more on Diabetes Australia website


Tablets Medication for type 2 diabetes People with type 2 diabetes are often given medications including insulin to help manager their blood glucose levels

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Medicines & type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes may be treated with drugs such as metformin, sulfonylureas & insulin. Read about diabetes medicines & how to manage them.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Are you at risk? (type 2)

Are you at Risk? (Type 2) While there is no single cause of type 2 diabetes, there are well-established risk factors

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Type-2 | Diabetes Victoria

Needing to go to the toilet more often to pass urine Infections, such as urinary tract or thrushAboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 35 and over People aged 35 and over who are Pacific Islanders, Maori, Asian (including the Indian subcontinent, or of Chinese origin) Middle Eastern, North African or Southern European People aged 45 and over who are obese or overweight, have high blood pressure or have a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes All people with cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, angina, stroke, narrowed blood vessels Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) who are overweight Women who have had gestational diabetes (GDM) People with a first degree relative with type 2 diabetesType 2 diabetes is a condition where the beta cells in the pancreas still make insulin, but it may not make enough, or the insulin that is being made does not do its job properly

Read more on Diabetes Victoria website

Managing type 2

Managing type 2 In type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is still working but not as effectively as it needs to

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Type 2 diabetes: symptoms, causes and treatment

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance and often goes hand in hand with obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Read more on myDr website

Type 2 diabetes, explained - NPS MedicineWise

Almost one million people in Australia have type 2 diabetes. Find out what type 2 diabetes is, its complications & effective management—including tests & monitoring.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo