Types of Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, is a metabolic condition that causes elevated blood sugar. The hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. With diabetes mellitus, your body either can’t make enough insulin or does not effectively use the insulin it produces.

Untreated elevated blood sugar from diabetes mellitus can damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.

There are a few different types of diabetes:

  •  Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. The immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas, where insulin is made. About 10 percent of people with diabetes have this type.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs because your body becomes resistant to insulin, and sugar builds up in your blood.
  • Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but it’s not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes is elevated blood sugar during pregnancy. Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta cause this type of diabetes.

Each type of diabetes has unique symptoms, causes, and treatments. 

 

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Diabetes symptoms are caused by rising blood sugar.

General symptoms

The general symptoms of diabetes include:

Symptoms in men

In addition to the general symptoms of diabetes, men with diabetes may have a decreased sex driveerectile dysfunction (ED), and poor muscle strength.

Symptoms in women

Women with diabetes can also have symptoms such as urinary tract infectionsyeast infections, and dry, itchy skin.

Type 1 diabetes

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can include:

  • extreme hunger
  • increased thirst
  • unintentional weight loss
  • frequent urination
  • blurry vision
  • tiredness

It may also result in mood changes.

Type 2 diabetes

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include:

  • increased hunger
  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • blurry vision
  • tiredness
  • sores that are slow to heal

It may also cause recurring infections. This is because elevated blood sugar levels make it harder for the body to heal.

Gestational diabetes

Most women with gestational diabetes don’t have any symptoms. The condition is often detected during a routine blood sugar test or oral glucose tolerance test that is usually performed between the 24th and 28th weeks of gestation.

In rare cases, a woman with gestational diabetes will also experience increased thirst or urination.

What are the causes of Diabetes?

Different causes are associated with each type of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

It is not really known exactly what causes type 1 diabetes. For some reason, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

 

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is due to a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Being overweight or obese increases your risk too. Carrying extra weight, especially in your belly, makes your cells more resistant to the effects of insulin on your blood sugar.

This condition runs in families. Family members share genes that make them more likely to get type 2 diabetes and to be overweight.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is the result of hormonal changes during pregnancy. The placenta produces hormones that make a pregnant woman’s cells less sensitive to the effects of insulin. This can cause high blood sugar during pregnancy.

Women who are overweight when they get pregnant or who gain too much weight during their pregnancy are more likely to get gestational diabetes

What are the Diabetes risk factors?

Certain factors increase your risk for diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

People are more likely to get type 1 diabetes if they are a child or teenager, if they have a parent or sibling with the condition, or if they carry certain genes that are linked to the disease.

Type 2 diabetes

For type 2 diabetes, your risk increases if you:

  • are overweight
  • are age 45 or older
  • have a parent or sibling with the condition
  • aren’t physically active
  • have had gestational diabetes
  • have prediabetes
  • have high blood pressurehigh cholesterol, or high triglycerides
  • have African American, Hispanic or Latino American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Asian American ancestry

Gestational diabetes

You are more likely to develop gestational diabetes if you:

Diabetes complications

High blood sugar damages organs and tissues throughout your body. The higher your blood sugar is and the longer you live with it, the greater your risk for complications.

Complications associated with diabetes include:

Gestational diabetes

Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to problems that affect both the mother and baby. Complications affecting the baby can include:

The mother can develop complications such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. She may also require cesarean delivery, commonly referred to as a C-section.

The mother’s risk of gestational diabetes in future pregnancies also increases.

Treatment of diabetes

Diabetes is treated with a few different medications. Some of these drugs are taken by mouth, while others are available as injections.

Type 1 diabetes

Insulin is the main treatment for type 1 diabetes. It replaces the hormone your body isn’t able to produce.

There are four types of insulin that are most commonly used. They’re differentiated by how quickly they start to work, and how long their effects last:

  • Rapid-acting insulin starts to work within 15 minutes and its effects last for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Short-acting insulin starts to work within 30 minutes and lasts 6 to 8 hours.
  • Intermediate-acting insulin starts to work within 1 to 2 hours and lasts 12 to 18 hours.
  • Long-acting insulin starts to work a few hours after injection and lasts 24 hours or longer.

Type 2 diabetes

Diet and exercise can help some people manage type 2 diabetes. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your blood sugar, you’ll need to take medication.

You may need to take more than one drug. Some people with type 2 diabetes also take insulin.

Gestational diabetes

You’ll need to monitor your blood sugar level several times a day during pregnancy. If it’s high, dietary changes and exercise may or may not be enough to bring it down.

According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10 to 20 percent of women with gestational diabetes will need insulin to lower their blood sugar. Insulin is safe for the growing baby.

Diabetes diagnosis

Anyone who has symptoms of diabetes or is at risk for the disease should be tested. Women are routinely tested for gestational diabetes during their second or third trimesters of pregnancy.

Doctors use these blood tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes:

  • The fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test measures your blood sugar after you’ve fasted for 8 hours.
  • The A1C test provides a snapshot of your blood sugar levels over the previous 3 months.

To diagnose gestational diabetes, your doctor will test your blood sugar levels between the 24th and 28th weeks of your pregnancy.

  • During the glucose challenge test, your blood sugar is checked an hour after you drink a sugary liquid.
  • During the 3 hour glucose tolerance test, your blood sugar is checked after you fast overnight and then drink a sugary liquid.

The earlier you get diagnosed with diabetes, the sooner you can start treatment. Find out whether you should get tested, and get more information on tests your doctor might perform.

Diabetes prevention

Type 1 diabetes isn’t preventable because it’s caused by a problem with the immune system. Some causes of type 2 diabetes, such as your genes or age, aren’t under your control either.

Yet many other diabetes risk factors are controllable. Most diabetes prevention strategies involve making simple adjustments to your diet and fitness routine.

If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, here are a few things you can do to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes:

These aren’t the only ways to prevent diabetes. 

Diabetes in children

Children can get both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Controlling blood sugar is especially important in young people, because the disease can damage important organs such as the heart and kidneys.

Type 1 diabetes

The autoimmune form of diabetes often starts in childhood. One of the main symptoms is increased urination. Kids with type 1 diabetes may start wetting the bed after they’ve been toilet trained.

Extreme thirst, fatigue, and hunger are also signs of the condition. It’s important that children with type 1 diabetes get treated right away. The disease can cause high blood sugar and dehydration, which can be medical emergencies.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes used to be called “juvenile diabetes” because type 2 was so rare in children. Now that more children are overweight or obese, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in this age group.

About 40 percent of children with type 2 diabetes don’t have symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease is often diagnosed during a physical exam.

Untreated type 2 diabetes can cause lifelong complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, and blindness. Healthy eating and exercise can help your child manage their blood sugar and prevent these problems.

Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent than ever in young people. Learn how to spot the signs so you can report them to your child’s doctor.

Gracia Pierre-Pierre, MD CAQSM