Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Although there is a strong family link (you are more likely to get type 2 diabetes if a close family member has it), the chance of getting type 2 diabetes is greater if you:
Type 2 diabetes progresses slowly and you can have it for many years without knowing it. It differs from Type 1 diabetes, which is thought to occur because the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is not caused by the body’s immune system.
Other causes of diabetes
During pregnancy, a woman’s body needs two to three times more insulin than usual to keep her blood glucose levels normal. Gestational diabetes develops if your pancreas is unable to produce the extra insulin needed, causing higher than normal blood sugar (glucose) levels. Gestational diabetes can often be controlled with diet and exercise, and will usually improve or disappear after your baby is born, but your doctor may test you for diabetes 3 months after your baby is born, and every 1 or 2 years after that.
Pancreas disease or damage
Pancreatic disease (chronic pancreatitis), or damage to the pancreas, in particular to the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, can also cause diabetes. This means that the pancreas makes less insulin, resulting in higher than normal blood glucose levels.
Some medicines such as corticosteroids (e.g. prednisolone or dexamethasone) can cause weight gain, and increase the amount of glucose and lipids (cholesterol and fats) in the blood. This increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Other medicines for serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (e.g. olanzapine and clozapine) can also cause weight gain and increase blood glucose levels, causing type 2 diabetes.
If you have gestational diabetes, medication-induced diabetes, or diabetes due to pancreatic disease or damage, you will be monitored, managed and treated as if you have type 2 diabetes. This will involve making diet and lifestyle changes and may mean that you have to take diabetes medicines to control your blood glucose levels.
If you have medication-induced diabetes, you will need ongoing blood glucose monitoring after you have stopped taking your medicines, as you will still be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes (due to insulin resistance) and the complications of diabetes, including heart and circulation (cardiovascular) problems, in the future.
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