In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas either produces inadequate amounts of insulin, or the body is unable to use the insulin that is produced (insulin resistance).
It is typically slow to develop, with some people unaware of the condition for many years.
Historically, type 2 diabetes tended to be a condition that occurred in people over the age of 40 years and was previously referred to as maturity-onset diabetes. However, the number of cases in children and teenagers is steadily increasing and the term type 2 diabetes is more routinely used.
Since 1996 the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has increased from 1.4 million to 2.9 million. By 2025 it is estimated that five million people will have diabetes.*
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
Age – Type 2 diabetes is more common over the age of 40 years, largely because as people age, they tend to exercise less and put on more weight. However, due to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise people are now being diagnosed at a much younger age.
Family history – If you have a close family member (biologically related) the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is raised. Having a parent with diabetes means that you are at a one in three risk of developing the same condition yourself.
Gestational diabetes – Any woman that develops gestational diabetes during any of her pregnancies is at an increased risk of developing this form of diabetes.
Ethnicity – A person’s ethnicity alone can have an impact on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that Afro-Caribbean or middle eastern people are three times more likely to develop diabetes, and South Asian people are up to six times more likely to develop diabetes.
Being overweight or obese – Excess body fat is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. In particular, fat around the abdomen increases the risk of diabetes.
Women with a waist measurement of over 31.5 inches (80cm) and men measuring over 37 inches (94cm) have a higher risk of developing diabetes, (in South Asian men the risk is higher if the waist measurement is over 35 inches (90cm).**
IFG (Impaired fasting glycaemia) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) – Are both commonly referred to as “pre-diabetic” conditions. In impaired fasting glycaemia, the blood glucose levels are high during a period of fasting, as the body cannot regulate glucose as efficiently as it should be able to. With impaired glucose tolerance, the levels of glucose in the blood are higher than normal.
With both of these conditions the glucose levels are not high enough to be termed diabetes, but without adapting to a healthier lifestyle there is a very high risk of them progressing to type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
This form of diabetes is typically slow to develop and progress. Many people have no or few symptoms at diagnosis. There are some symptoms that both type 1 & 2 diabetes have in common; however because of the insidious nature of type 2, some of the following symptoms may be experienced, especially after a meal, when glucose levels are higher:
- Producing excess urine which causes someone to pass urine more frequently – termed polyuria, particularly at night.
- Increased hunger and/or feeling hungry not long after eating a meal.
- Increased thirst.
- Blurred vision.
- Repeated thrush infections in the vagina (candidiasis)
- Wounds that take a long time to heal.
- Itching of the skin, especially around the genitals.