Almost 26 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes. That makes type 2 diabetes one of the most common diseases in the country. Doctors think there may be many more people who have it but who haven’t been diagnosed. They also think that many young people today are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes during their lifetime, so the number of people afflicted is expected to rise.Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes, but people have stopped using that term because more and more children are being diagnosed with the disease. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of teenagers with diabetes or prediabetes tripled to nearly 1 in every 4 teens. Diabetes is a chronic disorder of the endocrine system. People with diabetes aren’t able to properly metabolize glucose, which is the sugar your body uses for energy to carry out its functions. The only way that glucose can enter your cells is with a hormone called insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas. Insulin is very important not only for letting glucose into cells but also for regulating the amount of glucose in a person’s blood.When a healthy person eats, the pancreas detects glucose in the blood and secretes insulin. When a person who has type 2 diabetes eats, either the pancreas doesn’t put out enough insulin, or the insulin isn’t as effective in helping cells take glucose in. As a result, a person with type 2 diabetes can have high blood glucose levels unless he or she is aware of their disease and able to treat it.If a person’s blood glucose is often too high, over time it can damage tiny blood vessels, causing lots of problems like blindness, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries, and strokes. Too much blood glucose can wear the pancreas out and reduce its ability to make more insulin. If a person’s blood glucose is too low, the person can feel very tired and irritable. If a diabetic takes a little too much insulin, he or she can have a big drop in blood glucose, which can make the person pass out or even go into a diabetic coma if he or she doesn’t get some sugar. So the pancreas (or the diabetic patient) has to keep the level of blood glucose within a certain range. Constantly having high blood sugar can take a toll on lots of other body systems, too. Many diabetics develop heart disease. High blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels that nourish nerves in the hands, feet, and eyes. That means a lot of diabetics develop nerve damage in these areas. Diabetics can go blind. If the damage to their blood vessels gets bad enough, they have to have toes, feet, or other body parts amputated. Diabetics can also have kidney problems. The kidneys also have many tiny blood vessels that can be damaged by high blood sugar. Also, high blood sugar makes the kidneys work overtime producing more urine. Some diabetics lose function in their kidneys and have to have dialysis, which uses machines in place of kidneys to filter the blood.Doctors aren’t completely sure what causes type 2 diabetes, but they do think that some people have genes that make them more susceptible to it. Type 2 diabetes is more common among African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans than it is among whites. Many people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese and don’t get much exercise. And people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if they have a family history of it. Having high blood pressure, eating a lot of high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods, and drinking a lot of alcohol also increases a person’s risk. Type 2 diabetes is still more common in older people than in children, and the older a person gets, the greater the chances of developing it.