Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body handles glucose, a kind of sugar, in your blood.
Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes can occur when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin.
Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. It’s what lets your cells turn glucose from the food you eat into energy. People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their cells don’t use it as well as they should.
At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to try to get glucose into the cells. But eventually it can’t keep up, and the sugar builds up in your blood instead.
Usually a combination of things causes type 2 diabetes, including:
Genes. Scientists have found different bits of DNA that affect how your body makes insulin.
Extra weight. Being overweight or obese can cause insulin resistance, especially if you carry your extra pounds around the middle. Now type 2 diabetes affects kids and teens as well as adults, mainly because of childhood obesity.
Metabolic syndrome. People with insulin resistance often have a group of conditions including high blood glucose, extra fat around the waist, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Too much glucose from your liver. When your blood sugar is low, your liver makes and sends out glucose. After you eat, your blood sugar goes up, and usually the liver will slow down and store its glucose for later. But some people’s livers don’t. They keep cranking out sugar.
Bad communication between cells. Sometimes cells send the wrong signals or don’t pick up messages correctly. When these problems affect how your cells make and use insulin or glucose, a chain reaction can lead to diabetes.
Broken beta cells. If the cells that make the insulin send out the wrong amount of insulin at the wrong time, your blood sugar gets thrown off. High blood glucose can damage these cells, too.
While certain things make getting diabetes more likely, they won’t give you the disease. But the more that apply to you, the higher your chances of getting it are.
Some things you can’t control.
- Age: 45 or older
- Family: A parent, sister, or brother with diabetes
- Ethnicity: African-American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Latino, or Pacific Islander-American
Other risk factors have to do with your daily habits and lifestyle. These are the ones you can really do something about.
- Getting little or no exercise
- Sleeping too little or too much
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be so mild you don’t notice them. In fact, about 8 million people who have it don’t know it.
- Being very thirsty
- Peeing a lot
- Blurry vision
- Being irritable
- Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
- Feeling worn out
- Wounds that don’t heal
- Yeast infections that keep coming back