Living with Diabetes

What Are The Different Types of Diabetes?


Even though people talk about having diabetes, the term actually describes a group of diseases. These conditions all relate to the body's ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps you remove glucose, or sugar, from your blood, and convert it into energy. When this process is disrupted, your blood sugar levels can rise. 

Common Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry Vision
  • Cuts or sores that are slow to heal
  • Mood changes or irritability

If you do not manage your diabetes and keep your blood sugar levels under control, it can lead to serious or even life-threatening complications over time.

 

There are several different types of diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes is type 2. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas keeps making insulin, but the body becomes resistant to it. That means the insulin gradually stops working, and glucose starts to accumulate in your bloodstream over time. With type 2 diabetes, symptoms develop slowly, often over years, so you might not start to notice a problem until the disease is quite advanced.

 

While genetics can be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, age, diet, and lifestyle also play a role. You're more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you have excess weight or are not physically active. You're also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, although you can be diagnosed at any age.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the pancreas. When enough of these cells are destroyed, the body can no longer produce insulin, and glucose starts building up in the blood. Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes can progress very rapidly. Symptoms can come on suddenly and become very severe within weeks or months.

 

Scientists still aren't sure what causes some people to develop type 1 diabetes, although they think genetics plays a role. You're more likely to develop type 1 diabetes if you have close family members who also have the disease. It's also more commonly diagnosed in children and young adults, although you can develop type 1 diabetes at any age. One thing they do know is that type 1 diabetes does not seem to be caused by a person's lifestyle choices.

Prediabetes

If your glucose numbers are higher than normal, you may be diagnosed with prediabetes. This means that your body is becoming resistant to insulin, and is growing less efficient at removing sugar from the blood and converting it into energy. Genetics and lifestyle, including diet and exercise, are risk factors for prediabetes. Left untreated, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes.

 

The good news is that prediabetes can be reversed with treatment and lifestyle changes. Eating a healthy diet, increasing your physical activity, and taking any medications as prescribed can help restore your body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels.

Gestational Diabetes

Up to 10% of pregnant women may develop gestational diabetes, a condition which causes glucose levels to rise during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed through routine screening. In some cases it can be managed through diet and exercise, while other women will need to take insulin or other medications.

 

There are a number of risk factors for gestational diabetes, including having excess weight, having a family history of diabetes, having prediabetes, and having polycystic ovary syndrome. If you've had gestational diabetes before, you're more likely to develop it again.

 

While gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth, it can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Treatment for Different Types of Diabetes

If you have symptoms of diabetes, talk with your doctor right away. It's very important to diagnose diabetes early so you can start managing it and keep your blood sugar under control. In most cases, diabetes can be managed with a healthy lifestyle and medication. No matter what type of diabetes you have, it's important to also manage your stress, by getting enough sleep, connecting with loved ones, making time to relax and unwind, and keeping a positive attitude.

Treating Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed with lifestyle changes, including eating a healthy diet, getting more exercise, losing excess weight, and quitting smoking. You may also need to take insulin, as well as medications to manage related conditions like high blood pressure.

Treating Type 1 Diabetess

People with type 1 diabetes need to carefully monitor their glucose levels and take insulin to control their blood sugar. It's also important to count carbohydrates, eat a balanced diet, and get regular exercise.

Treating Prediabetes

Prediabetes can be slowed down or even reversed with lifestyle changes, including losing excess weight, eating a healthy diet, getting more exercise, and quitting smoking.

Treating Gestational Diabetes

Depending on what is causing gestational diabetes, you may be able to keep your blood sugar levels under control with diet and exercise, or you may need to take insulin.

Treating Type 3c Diabetes

Treating type 3c diabetes can be more complicated, because treatment may be affected by the underlying condition that caused the diabetes. For example, someone with pancreatic cancer may have difficulty eating or maintaining a healthy weight, making it harder to manage blood sugar levels. Work with your diabetes care team to come up with a management plan.

Curing Diabetes Type 1

Scientists at the Diabetes Research Institute are aggressively working toward a cure that would reverse type 1 diabetes. Research is focused on finding a biological cure that would restore the body's ability to produce insulin on its own. One treatment possibility involves a process called islet transplantation, in which clusters of cells from a healthy pancreas are injected into someone with type 1 diabetes. While this treatment is still being studied, some patients who have had it have been able to stop taking insulin, or reduce the amount of insulin they need.

Diabetes is a serious disease, but there are tools to manage it. The first step to managing your diabetes is understanding which type you have. With information and proper treatment, you can keep your blood sugar levels under control and avoid complications, staying healthy for a long time to come.

The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation's What is Diabetes? brochure has important information about type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Get more answers to your questions about type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes symptoms and treatments. (In Spanish: ¿Que es La Diabetes?).
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A Guide for School Personnel and Child Care Providers

Educate teachers, school personnel and other child care providers about taking care of your child with type 1 diabetes. Download this helpful guide now.