What are the Different Types of Diabetes?

Mary McMahon

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder which is characterized by difficulties with processing glucose, causing an elevation in blood sugar and an assortment of other health problems. There are three main types of diabetes: gestational, type 1, and type 2. Treatment plans for the various types are very different, although they share many commonalities in terms of symptoms and potential risks.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the cells that generate insulin, which is necessary for regulating blood glucose levels.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the cells that generate insulin, which is necessary for regulating blood glucose levels.

Type 1 is also sometimes called “insulin-dependent diabetes.” It is an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system attacks the cells which normally generate insulin, a compound necessary for digesting glucose. Patients with type I must take supplemental insulin and monitor their blood sugar levels carefully to treat the disease; some lifestyle recommendations may be made as well to make patients more healthy in general. Around 10 to 15% of diabetics have this type of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy.

Type 2 is characterized by a development of insulin resistance, meaning that the body suddenly needs more insulin to process glucose than it can produce. It can be caused by genetic and lifestyle factors; being overweight, for example, can put people at risk of developing type 2. This condition can be treated with lifestyle changes and sometimes with the assistance of medications as well.

Type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin, so they must rely on a pump or regular injections.
Type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin, so they must rely on a pump or regular injections.

Gestational diabetes arises in pregnant mothers. It is usually quickly diagnosed because doctors regularly check the blood sugar levels of their patients. This form usually resolves with the birth of the child, but some steps can be taken to treat it, reducing the potential risk to the fetus. It can cause health problems for the child later in life, and problems with the pregnancy, but it is not a cause for alarm if it is quickly caught and addressed.

Gestational diabetes affects some women during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes affects some women during pregnancy.

Another condition, called diabetes insipidus, affects the kidneys. This condition has nothing to do with insulin, but it shares the symptom of increased urine production with diabetes. Patients with this condition produce extremely dilute urine in high volume, no matter how much they drink, and it is typically treated with antidiuretic hormones and diet.

It is critical for those with diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly.
It is critical for those with diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly.
Type 2 diabetes may be triggered by lifestyle or genetics.
Type 2 diabetes may be triggered by lifestyle or genetics.

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