What is Type 2 Diabetes?

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas struggles to produce enough insulin, or is producing insulin which cannot be effectively used by the body (insulin resistance). Insulin is vital to the function of the human body, as the hormone transports glucose from foods into the body’s cells, where it can be used to produce energy. For people living with type 2 diabetes, glucose builds up in the bloodstream due to a lack of effective insulin, triggering the pancreas to release more insulin to cope. Over time, this process can overwork the pancreas, which becomes less efficient at producing insulin. If too much glucose (sugar) enters the bloodstream, glucose levels may continue to rise.

  • 2 Million

    A new record high number of adults in the UK at serious risk of developing type 2 diabetes

  • 90%

    Of all patients diagnosed with diabetes in the UK are type 2

  • 578 Million

    The expected number of people with diabetes by 2030

Causes of Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity and poor lifestyle choices, although it can also be hereditary and tends to be diagnosed in older people. People in certain Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are also up to six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Whilst type 2 is commonly associated with adults over the age of 40, it is being found increasingly in younger people - especially if they are overweight and lacking in physical activity.

A woman checking her blood sugar levels.


When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, or creates ineffective insulin that cannot be used, glucose begins building up the bloodstream. To counter this, the body tries to find new ways to get rid of glucose. This results in a person developing symptoms which can be used be used to diagnose the condition. Understanding these symptoms is crucial to preventing early complications caused by high sugar levels. 

  • Severe tiredness. Carbohydrates cannot be converted into energy, resulting in people feeling more tired than usual.
  • Frequent urination. The body uses the kidneys to flush out glucose.
  • Thirst. The body attempts to replace lost fluid. 
  • Weight loss. This is usually rapid and very noticeable.   
  • Visual changes. Due to temporary changes in lens shape.

Managing Type 2 Diabetes

The backbone of treating type 2 diabetes is healthy eating and physical activity. But type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition and, in time, tablets and/or other forms of medication such as insulin injections may become necessary. Most people with diabetes require medication to control their condition yet fewer than half remember to take them as prescribed. When you agree to take medication make sure you know what each tablet is for, any side effects to be expected and when to have a review. Your medication is designed to prevent complications in the future, even if you feel well now.

Plate of Vegetables
Two adults cycling in woodland.

How is it different from Type 1 diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce insulin and treatment is required for life. It can be diagnosed at any age, but it is most common in children and young adults. 

In type 2 diabetes the pancreas either fails to produce enough insulin, or produces insulin which is ineffective and cannot be used by the body. Type 2 is usually diagnosed in people over the age of 40 and is strongly linked to poor lifestyle choices and obesity, with the backbone of management focusing on healthy eating and exercise. It is also the most common form of diabetes, accounting for around 90% of everyone living with diabetes.

How We Can Help at DRWF


Each year we run events for people living with diabetes, ranging from educational workshops and wellness events, to fundraising marathons and group skydives. To find out more about our events and how we support people living with diabetes, please visit our Events Page.


Since 1998 we have provided over £12 million of funding for medical research programmes, with the aim of finding a cure for all types of diabetes. In 2004, we made a significant commitment to Islet Cell Research and Transplant, a programme which focuses on the role of islet cells in diabetes. Read more about our commitment to research by visiting our Research Page.


We rely on our amazing donors who raise the funds that help support people living with diabetes across the UK, as well as funding our vital research programmes. There are lots of ways to raise money to support people living with all forms of diabetes, there’s something for everyone! To discover more about fundraising with us, please visit our Fundraising Page

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