Skip to main content

Last Updated on April 12, 2023


Key findings from the International Diabetes Federation reveal there were 537 million adults living with diabetes in 2021 resulting in 6.7 million deaths which equates to 1 death every 5 seconds. Diabetes mellitus comprises a group of diseases that results in high blood glucose. There are two common types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2 – distinguished based on the disease’s fundamental etiology. This article will help you answer the question, “Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease?”. Continue reading to find out more.

What is Diabetes?

What is type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? Diabetes mellitus is a clinical syndrome characterized by high blood glucose (hyperglycemia). Type 1 diabetes results from the autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing cells (beta cells) in the pancreas, leading to marked insulin deficiency. In type 2 diabetes, there is a reduced sensitivity to insulin and an inability to produce sufficient insulin to overcome this insulin resistance.

But if you’re wondering: “Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease?” You should continue reading this blog.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is generally considered a T-cell-mediated autoimmune disease involving damage to insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreatic islets. In the natural history of type 1 diabetes, there is initially a loss of first-phase insulin secretion, followed by a period of glucose intolerance and clinically undiagnosed diabetes. Autoantibodies are typically present in 70 to 80% of new cases but can vary depending on age, gender, ethnicity, and the assay’s quality.

Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? The next few sections can help identify that.

Type 2 Diabetes

Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? To answer this we must first understand type 2 diabetes. Initially, insulin resistance leads to more insulin production to maintain blood glucose levels. However, the pancreatic beta cells are unable to sustain the high demand for insulin. Resultantly, a progressive insulin deficiency develops. The key feature is “relative” insulin deficiency which contrasts with type 1 diabetes, in which there is a rapid loss of insulin production.

Still wondering “Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease?” Keep on reading.

What is An Autoimmune Disorder?

One should know about autoimmune disorders. In an autoimmune disorder, the body mistakenly attacks its cells. Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? The immune system defends the body against foreign microorganisms, but sometimes it can react to harmless things.

There are numerous autoimmune disorders, but some of the more common ones are:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Celiac disease
  • Sjogren’s syndrome

Autoimmunity can impact the quality of life significantly. They are not easy to diagnose and often have overlapping symptoms. If you have a family history of autoimmune disease and experience unusual signs and symptoms, you should contact a medical provider to get tested.

Is Type 2 Diabetes An Autoimmune Disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes is an avoidable condition in which the body alters its metabolic function. The usual cause is being overweight, obese, and having a sedentary lifestyle. At present, type 2 is not considered an autoimmune disorder.

Conversely, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. The body targets its own cells in the pancreas affecting its ability to produce insulin.

Medical research is a continuously advancing field. Recent research reveals some changes in how the cells in the immune system function in type 2 diabetes resemble other autoimmune disorders. But for now, type 2 diabetes is not considered an autoimmune disorder.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia

A better understanding of the symptoms of high blood glucose can also help us better answer our question: Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? It can also help us formulate a diabetic care plan. When someone experiences hyperglycemia, they may have:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Polyuria (frequent urination)
  • Nocturia (urinary urge at night)
  • Fatigue
  • Change in weight (usually weight loss)
  • Blurring of vision
  • Genital candidiasis (fungal infections)
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Hyperphagia (preference for sweet foods)
  • Mood change
  • Irritability

Classical Features of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1:

  • Not overweight
  • No family history of diabetes
  • GAD/IA-2 antibody positive
  • Low C-peptide
  • Less than 40 years of age
  • Ketonuria
  • Rapid death without treatment with insulin
  • Autoantibodies (80-90%)
  • No diabetic complication at diagnosis

Just like type 1, is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? No, it isn’t.

Type 2:

  • Obese or overweight
  • Aged over 40
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Belong to a high-risk ethnicity
  • GAD/IA-2 antibody negative
  • Elevated C-peptide
  • Months to years of symptoms
  • No ketonuria
  • Negative autoantibodies
  • 25% chance of complications at diagnosis

Is diabetes an autoimmune disease? The symptoms may not say so.


Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? Investigations may help differentiate.

  • Urine glucose:

    A urine test for glucose with a dipstick is a common screening procedure for detecting diabetes. It is preferable to perform this test 1 to 2 hours after a meal.

  • Blood glucose:

    A laboratory blood glucose test involves an enzymatic reaction.

  • Interstitial glucose:

    A relatively new method of measuring glucose levels in diabetes is through the use of interstitial continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). A tiny sensor is inserted under the skin for 2 weeks.

  • Urine and blood ketones:

    The presence of ketones in the urine is known as ketonuria and is present in diabetics.

  • Glycated hemoglobin:

    Glycated hemoglobin is measured using an HbA1c test. It measures blood glucose over three months and is a fairly accurate test.

  • Islet autoantibodies:

    An islet autoantibody test can confirm the presence of autoantibodies by the destruction of beta cells in the islets of the pancreas. “Is diabetes an autoimmune disease?” From this test, we can see there is no significant presence of autoantibodies in type 2 diabetes.

  • C-peptide:

    C-peptide is a marker of natural insulin production tested through blood and urine.

  • Urine protein:

    Protein in the urine without UTI indicates nephropathy.


Is type 2 diabetes an autoimmune disease? Well, it is clear that type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disorder. At present, only type 1 is classified as an autoimmune anomaly. Current research suggests type 2 diabetes affects the immune system but more research is needed. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests people lead a healthy lifestyle and avoid smoking to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Medicine is an advancing field and without research, new treatments and therapies are not possible. Prime Revival Research Institute is conducting clinical trials. You are encouraged to participate and help advance medicine.

Is diabetes an autoimmune disease? Currently, it is not. However, with medical advancements, and further research, only time will tell.

Dr. Hamza Nadeem

Dr. Muhammad Hamza Nadeem currently works as a Patient Recruitment Associate. He has a firm grip on the medical research process and patient safety in clinical trials. His experience in writing combined with an academic background in medical science makes him well-suited to assist individuals in clinical trial participation.