Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown, although excess weight, inactivity and genetic factors seem to be important.

Insulin: The key for sugar

Insulin is a hormone that comes from the pancreas, a gland located just behind the stomach. When your child eats, the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream. As insulin circulates, it acts like a key by unlocking microscopic doors that allow sugar to enter your child's cells. Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your child's bloodstream. As your child's blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.

Glucose: The energy source

Glucose — sugar — is a major source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues. Glucose comes from two main sources: the food your child eats and your child's liver. During digestion, sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. Normally, sugar then enters cells with the help of insulin.

Liver: Production and storage

The liver acts as a glucose storage and manufacturing center. When your child's insulin levels are low — when your child hasn't eaten in a while, for example — the liver releases the stored glucose to keep your child's glucose level within a normal range.

In type 2 diabetes, this process doesn't work well. Instead of moving into your child's cells, sugar builds up in his or her bloodstream. This occurs when your child's pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or your child's cells become resistant to the effect of insulin.

May. 03, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.