What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious, progressive and complex condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin. We don't know what causes type 2 diabetes; however it is associated with modifiable lifestyle risk factors.  

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

People with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms, so they may have diabetes for a number of years without knowing it. Sometimes the first sign that something is wrong is when they develop a complication of diabetes such as a heart attack, vision problems or a stroke.

Typical symptoms of type 2 diabetes

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling hungry
  • Needing to go to the toilet more often to pass urine
  • Infections, such as urinary tract or thrush
  • Skin rashes / itching
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts that heal slowly

Is type 2 common?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and affects 85 to 90 per cent of all people with diabetes. It usually develops in adults over the age of 45, but is now being seen in younger people too.

Who is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

While there is no single cause for type 2 diabetes, there are well-known risk factors. Those most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • People with pre diabetes
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 35 and over
  • People aged 35 and over who are Pacific Islanders, Maori, Asian (including the Indian subcontinent, or of Chinese origin) Middle Eastern, North African or Southern European
  • People aged 45 and over who are obese or overweight, have high blood pressure or have a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes
  • All people with cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, angina, stroke, narrowed blood vessels
  • Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) who are overweight
  • Women who have had gestational diabetes (GDM)
  • People aged 55 or over
  • People with a first degree relative with type 2 diabetes
  • People taking certain antipsychotic medicine or corticosteroid medicine
  • Lifestyle risk factors include:
  • Being overweight or obese, especially around the waist
  • Low levels of physical activity, including more than two hours of television watching per day
  • Unhealthy eating habits, such as regularly choosing high fat, high sugar, high salt or low fibre foods
  • Cigarette smoking


Note: It is important that diabetes is diagnosed and treated early. Those at high risk for type 2 diabetes should have a blood test each year.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 can be prevented.

Up to 60% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented. People at risk of type 2 diabetes can delay and even prevent this condition by following a healthy lifestyle. This includes:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Doing regular physical activity
  • Making healthy food choices
  • Managing blood pressure
  • Managing cholesterol levels
  • Not smoking

The Life! program can help you to reduce your risk of diabetes heart disease and stroke. Call 13 RISK (13 7475) for more information.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs in about 5-10 per cent of pregnancies and usually disappears after birth. It significantly increases a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. 

Can type 2 diabetes be cured?

At this stage there is no cure for type 2 diabetes. Changing and keeping a healthy lifestyle can help keep blood glucose levels within the normal range, where you may no longer need medicine. Achieving this is great and has many health benefits. However, this is known as remission, not a cure. The reason for this is, if you no longer keep a healthy lifestyle and start to put on weight again, your blood glucose levels will once again rise. This is why keeping a healthy lifestyle is so important.

For more information about diabetes visit the Diabetes Victoria website