Millions of people in the United States have diabetes. It's so common that if you don't have it, you probably know someone who does.
Most people who have diabetes have type 2. Like other forms of diabetes, it's a serious, lifelong condition that can lead to heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.
Fortunately, you can take steps to avoid or at least delay the onset of the disease and to protect yourself from the complications it can cause.
Type 2 diabetes: Trouble using insulin
Type 2 diabetes happens when the body doesn't properly use insulin—a hormone that transports glucose (sugar) from the blood to the cells where it is used for fuel—or doesn't make enough. As a result, unused glucose builds up in the blood.
You're more likely to get type 2 diabetes as you get older (though the disease can affect people of all ages). It's also more likely among certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), these factors also raise your risk:
Type 2 diabetes used to be rare in children. In fact, it used to be called adult-onset diabetes. But as more young people become overweight, it is now more common for them to develop this disease.
Symptoms begin slowly
Type 2 diabetes doesn't always cause symptoms. But according to the NIDDK, when symptoms do occur they tend to begin slowly and may include:
If you have symptoms of diabetes, see your doctor. Several tests that measure your blood glucose can check for the disease.
The complications of diabetes can affect almost every part of the body. That's why it's important to find the disease early on and take steps to control it.
According to the NIDDK, if not controlled, diabetes can:
Controlling the disease
People with type 2 diabetes can do a lot to manage it and avoid complications. Management strategies are aimed at controlling blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIDDK, these steps can help:
For more information, visit the Diabetes health topic center.