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Conditions InDepth: Type 2 Diabetes


Insulin is a hormone normally produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps your body convert food into energy. Without insulin, glucose (sugar) from food cannot enter cells, and glucose builds up in the blood. Your body tissues become starved for energy.

Type 2 diabetes is primarily a disorder in which the cells are not responding to the high levels of insulin circulating in the body. The body becomes increasingly resistant to insulin. As type 2 diabetes progresses, the over-worked beta cells of the pancreas start to make less insulin.

How Type 2 Diabetes Occurs

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Type 2 diabetes occurs because either one or both of the following conditions exist:

  • Fat, muscle, or liver cells do not respond to the high levels of insulin (called insulin resistance)
  • Beta cells in the pancreas do not make enough insulin relative to the demands of the body

People older than age 45 years are at higher risk of developing this condition, but it can occur at any age—even during childhood. Being overweight or obese is the primary cause of insulin resistance, and it increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

If diabetes is left untreated, serious health complications can occur. These complications affect the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood and nerve supply, and immune system.


Diabetes mellitus type 2. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 29, 2013. Accessed August 28, 2013.

Type 2 diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at:
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Accessed August 28, 2013.



Last reviewed September 2015 by Kim A. Carmichael, MD
Last Updated: 9/17/2014

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