Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Previously known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 diabetes results when the pancreatic beta cells are destroyed by the immune system.  Beta cells are the only cell type in the body capable of producing insulin, so the loss means a person is no longer able to make insulin and no longer able to regulate the levels of blood sugar. These patients are dependent on insulin replacement given by injection or an insulin pump. Type 1 diabetes is the type most commonly diagnosed in children, adolescents, and young adults. Overall it accounts for approximately 5-10% of all diabetes cases. Risk factors for development of type 1 diabetes are a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Type 2 Diabetes

Previously known as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease caused by a combination of insulin resistance, an inability of pancreatic beta cells to produce adequate amounts of insulin and ultimately beta cell death. This form of diabetes accounts for approximately 90-95% of the cases. It is most often observed in older adults but cases in children and young adults are increasing. The risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, low physical activity, and race/ethnicity.

Pre-Diabetes

Pre-diabetes is a condition of high blood glucose levels, but not yet high enough for diagnosis of diabetes.  These individuals are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Moderate-intensity physical activity and weight loss can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that approximately 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes can also occur during pregnancy and is then called gestational. An expectant mother would experience all the symptoms of diabetes, such as thirst and fatigue. While the diabetes typically disappears after giving birth, the mother is at increased risk of developing diabetes later in life. Also, the health of the baby depends on the mother being able to tightly control her blood sugar levels.

Other Rare Forms of Diabetes

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes occur most often and are described as polygenic, which means several genes are causing it. In rarer forms, which represent about 1% to 2% of all cases, a single gene that has mutated can cause diabetes. The gene could be inherited or just mutate on its own. These diabetic conditions are called monogenic and the most common example in this group is maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). Patients affected will often have multiple family members who developed diabetes at an early age and some could benefit from special therapies.