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What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that causes the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood to become higher than normal.

It can be serious if not looked after, but it is very treatable. For some people it can be prevented or delayed.


Type 2 diabetes can cause symptoms such as:

  • excessive thirst
  • needing to pee a lot
  • tiredness

Some people may not notice any symptoms.

If diabetes goes undetected or is not treated it can increase your risk of developing serious problems with your:

  • eyes
  • heart
  • feet
  • nerves
  • kidneys
  • liver

Find out more about symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Diagnosing type 2 diabetes


Type 2 diabetes is caused by problems with a hormone in the body called insulin.

Insulin controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood, keeping it at healthy levels. Insulin is produced by the pancreas - a gland behind the stomach.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when blood glucose stays too high. This can happen when the body does not produce enough insulin. It can also happen when the body cannot properly use the insulin it produces.

We get glucose from the carbohydrates in our food and drinks. Normally glucose enters our bloodstream, and insulin made by the pancreas allows the glucose to move into the body's cells to be used for energy.

If we cannot make enough insulin, or if our insulin is not working properly, the glucose cannot enter the cells around the body. It stays in the blood and blood glucose levels become higher than normal.

Risk factors

Things that can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • being overweight or inactive
  • having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes

It is helpful to know what the risks are so it can be prevented or delayed.

Read more about the risks of developing type 2 diabetes


The things that you do on a daily basis can make a huge difference to the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Treatment includes:

Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol also help.

You will need to have more regular check-ups to ensure your health is not affected by diabetes.

For example:

You will also be encouraged to take an active role in your own care.

As part of your treatment you will be invited to take part in a free diabetes support course.

If you are taking diabetes medicine you can recover some of the costs through the Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Find out more about treatment for type 2 diabetes

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2020
Next review due: 1 August 2023

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 9.