Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.

There are two main types of diabetes  type 1 and type 2.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body’s cells don't react to insulin. This means that glucose stays in the blood and isn't used as fuel for energy. Learn more about the causes of type 2 diabetes.

The high blood sugar level makes you:

  • feel thirsty
  • pee more than usual, particularly at night
  • feel tired all the time

Learn more about the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

A growing problem

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and tends to be diagnosed in older people. It's far more common than type 1 diabetes.

It's estimated that more than 1 in 16 people in the UK has diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed), and this figure is rising rapidly.

There are currently 3.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK, with 90% of those affected having type 2 diabetes.

Learn about who’s at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The danger of type 2 diabetes

Diabetes can cause serious long-term health problems. It's the most common cause of vision loss and blindness in people of working age. Everyone with diabetes aged 12 or over should be invited to have their eyes screened once a year for diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetes is also responsible for most cases of kidney failure and lower limb amputation (other than accidents).

People with diabetes are up to five times more likely to have cardiovascular disease (such as a stroke) than those without diabetes.

Read more about the complications of type 2 diabetes.

What you can do

If you're at risk of type 2 diabetes, you may be able to prevent it developing by making lifestyle changes.

You should:

If you already have type 2 diabetes, it may be possible to control your symptoms by making the above changes. This will also minimise your risk of developing complications.

Read more about living with type 2 diabetes.

As type 2 diabetes usually gets worse, you may eventually need medication (usually tablets) to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.

Read more about the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes (during pregnancy)

Blood glucose levels can sometimes rise during pregnancy, making it difficult for insulin to absorb it all. This is called gestational diabetes, which affects about 5% of pregnant women.

Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of health problems developing in an unborn baby, so it's important to control your blood glucose levels.

In most cases, gestational diabetes disappears after the baby is born. However, women who develop the condition have about a 30% risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life.

Read more about gestational diabetes.

Healthy living with diabetes

Diabetes can have serious health consequences, including heart disease and blindness. But with careful management you can reduce your risk

Page last reviewed: 18/06/2014

Next review due: 18/06/2016