Type 2 diabetes | Diabetes & Endocrinology | UC Davis Health

Type 2 Diabetes

The cells of our bodies need glucose, a type of sugar, to produce the energy we need to function. The hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, is necessary to enable glucose to transfer into cells. But if the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or if the cells of the organs develop resistance to insulin and no longer process it well, the body can no longer use energy from food properly. That condition is known as type 2 diabetes.

About 1 in 10 Americans have type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease. It is the seventh-highest cause of death in the United States. As cells increasingly resist insulin and reject glucose, that sugar begins building up in the blood. The result can cause serious, even lethal damage to the organs of the body. Type 2 diabetes is most common in adults 45 or older, but young adults and children also can develop it.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

In addition to symptoms common to all forms of diabetes, type 2 diabetes can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Thirst or hunger, despite drinking and eating regularly
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Increased urination

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can be caused by inherited abnormal genes that cause insulin resistance. But it also can develop as a result of lifestyle, including insufficient exercise and obesity.

The risk of developing the disorder is highest among people who:

  • Are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Had gestational diabetes when pregnant
  • Have parents or other family members with diabetes
  • Have hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Have prediabetes (blood glucose that is higher than normal)

Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

We can help you manage type 2 diabetes with a program of dietary changes, exercise and, if necessary, medication. Dietary recommendations include:

  • Foods that are high in protein and low in saturated fat, such as skinless chicken, seafood, beans, nuts and tofu
  • Non-starchy vegetables that have low carbohydrate content, such as broccoli, cauliflower and carrots
  • Unprocessed or minimally processed carbohydrates from brown rice, oatmeal and whole-grain foods (avoid pasta, potatoes and white bread, which can increase blood glucose)
  • Avoid added sugars and salts, creamy salad dressings, packaged and canned foods, and sweet foods and drinks

If you must take insulin, it is available in several forms:

  • Self-injections, using a syringe or a pen that delivers precise doses
  • Inhaled rapid-acting insulin that you spray into your mouth
  • Insulin pump that supplies insulin throughout the day

Other Related Articles

Healthy habits to help you prevent or manage your type 2 diabetes

Take this 60-second type 2 diabetes risk test