What is Type 2 Diabetes?

This article explains what Type 2 diabetes is.


Type 2 diabetes is more common than Type 1 diabetes and usually develops over the age of 40. 

Risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Having a blood relative with diabetes
  • Being of South Asian or African-Carribean origin
  • Having had diabetes during pregnancy (Gestational Diabetes)

People with Type 2 Diabetes can still produce insulin but they are not making enough to meet the body's needs or the insulin they do produce is not being used properly.

Insulin is used to transfer the glucose from the blood stream to the cells of the body. If there is not enough insulin the glucose builds up in the blood stream.

How is Type 2 Diabetes treated? 

  • A healthy diet - low in sugar, low in fat and high in fibre
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Good blood pressure control
  • Tablets - they are not a substitute for healthy eating
  • Insulin - often necessary in some people when tablets are not sufficient

If not properly controlled Type 2 Diabetes can cause serious long-term complications. Type 2 Diabetes should never be regarded as mild diabetes.

Near normal blood sugar readings along with a healthy lifestyle will help to prevent against long -term damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and major blood vessels. 

Diabetes and tablets

There are several different types of tablet which work in a variety of different ways. 
For more information on this please check the medication without insulin page.

Diabetes and combination therapy

Some patients take a combination of different tablets or even tablets and insulin therapy to control their blood sugar levels.

The need for changes in treatment can alter over time and therefore it is important to attend regular check-ups for your diabetes either with your diabetes team or your GP.

Diabetes and insulin therapy

If your body has stopped producing enough insulin for the tablets to work, you may require insulin. This is given by injections. Your diabetes specialist nurse will give you the necessary information and support.

 Important points:

  • Take your tablets as instructed
  • Do not stop your tablets unless instructed by your diabetes team or GP
  • Do not double your dose if you miss a tablet
  • Do not stop your tablets if you are unwell - even if you are not eating
  • Ensure you have a continued supply

You may be entitled to exemption from prescription charges if you are taking medication for your diabetes - ask your GP about an exemption request form.

If you suffer from side-effects from the tablets contact your GP or your diabetes team.

Other medications such as steroids and some diuretics (water tablets) can cause higher blood sugar levels. Your diabetes treatment may need altered if you start taking these.

If you hold a driving licence, you are required by law to inform the DVLA and your insurance company if you start tablets or insulin for your diabetes.

What is a Hypo? 

Hypoglycaemia or hypo is a low blood sugar level (less than 4 mmols). It will only occur if you are treated with Insulin or a tablet type called Sulphonylureas e.g. gliclazide. For more information on this please check the Hypoglycaemia leaflet

How do I achieve good blood sugar control and stay as healthy as possible? 

  • Attend all your clinic appointments where you will receive help and advice as well as screening for any complications which can then be treated promptly
  • Self monitor - Not all patients with Type 2 diabetes need to monitor their sugar levels, but if you are advised to then perform either urine monitoring or blood sugar monitoring as instructed. Your diabetes nurse or practice nurse will show you how to do this
  • Take any medication as directed
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly - keep active as this helps to reduce you sugar levels and has other general health benefits
  • Do not smoke - smoking significantly increases the risk of complications of diabetes - especially heart disease
  • Stick to sensible amounts of alcohol
  • Have your eyes tested regularly at the optometrist
  • Inspect your feet daily
  • Blood pressure control is very important for people with diabetes - you may require medication to control this

For more information on Type 2 diabetes:

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