Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes — previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) — is a chronic metabolic disorder that occurs when the body is unable to make enough, or to properly use, insulin. Without enough insulin, the body cannot move blood sugar (or glucose) into the cells.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases. There is an increase in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. The rise may be due to obesity and decreased physical activity among children. The risk for developing type 2 diabetes increases with age.


Type 2 diabetes is commonly preceded by pre-diabetes. In pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be defined as diabetes. However, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, many people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years of having pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Type 2 diabetes may be prevented — or at least delayed — for individuals with pre-diabetes by following a healthy lifestyle that includes eating balanced meals, increasing exercise and losing weight. The “Diabetes Challenge” outlines some specific tips and tricks for making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle. Making these changes can be hard, but they can make a big difference in your health. Your diabetes team is here to support you!


The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown. However, there is an inherited susceptibility which causes it to run in families. Although a person can inherit a tendency to develop type 2 diabetes, it usually takes another factor, such as obesity, to bring on the disease.

Risk factors

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Age (incidence increases with age)
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Not exercising regularly
  • Being a member of certain racial and ethnic groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans
  • A low level HDL (high density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol)
  • A high triglyceride level

Signs and symptoms

Each child may experience symptoms differently, but the following are the most common symptoms for type 2 diabetes:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger but loss of weight
  • Unusual thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme weakness and fatigue
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Frequent infections that are not easily healed
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High levels of sugar in the blood when tested
  • High levels of sugar in the urine when tested
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Tingling or loss of feeling in the hands or feet

Some people who have type 2 diabetes exhibit no symptoms. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes may also resemble other problems or medical conditions, so always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

Testing and diagnosis

If you or your primary care provider suspects your child might have type 2 diabetes, some testing might be done to see if your child is currently experiencing high blood sugar or has had a history of high blood sugars during the past three months.


Specific treatment for type 2 diabetes will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment is to keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Emphasis is on control of blood sugar (glucose) by monitoring the levels, regular physical activity, meal planning, and routine healthcare.

Treatment of diabetes is an ongoing process of management and education that includes not only the child with diabetes, but also family members. Treatment may include:

  • Improved nutrition
  • Weight control
  • An appropriate exercise program
  • Proper hygiene
  • Insulin replacement therapy (under the direction of your child's physician)

Next Steps
Appointments and Referrals
girl testing blood sugar

Tools to Manage Diabetes

These resources will help your child and family manage blood sugar testing, highs and lows, insulin, nutrition, and more.

young boy smiling

Life With Diabetes

Review our information about support and coping, school, teen topics, and general well-being.