Jeff: “And someday, you will know it by its true name: diabetes.” —Community
In A Nutshell
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 happens when the immune system compromises the body’s ability to produce insulin, creating the onset of diabetes, and type 2 is diagnosed later in life, usually brought on by poor diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. Gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy, while the more rare type 1.5 is a slowly progressing version of type 1. Diabetes can also be triggered by pancreas surgery or by chemicals and medications.
The Whole Bushel
Millions of people all over the world have been diagnosed with diabetes, and undoubtedly, there’s also a huge number of people that are going undiagnosed. There’s plenty of talk about diabetes as a whole, but less talk about the difference between the types.
There are three main different types of diabetes—type 1, type 2, and gestational. In general, diabetes is a condition in which the levels of glucose in the blood are too high.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed in women who are pregnant, usually those who have entered their third trimester. It occurs when the body isn’t producing enough insulin to get glucose from the blood to the different cells in the body, and women who have been diagnosed with other types of diabetes are more prone to developing this one. It can also make women more susceptible to type 2 diabetes later.
It’s as common as up to 5 in every 100 women who give birth, but it can usually be controlled with a combination of medication, exercise, and diet. If it’s not diagnosed and controlled properly, it can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, or a condition called macrosomia, which is the baby being considerably bigger than it should be for its age.
Type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed at any time, but usually manifests between the time a person is a teenager and before the age of 40. Also called insulin-dependent diabetes, early onset diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, it accounts for only about 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of the condition. It happened when the pancreas isn’t producing any insulin, which is essentially a glucose-regulating hormone. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that starts when a person’s immune system begins to attack the insulin-making cells of the pancreas.
Symptoms can develop in anywhere from a few weeks to a few months—the younger you are, the faster they happen. As the immune system attacks the pancreas, the body begins to break down fat and muscle tissues in response, which will eventually manifest itself in noticeable symptoms. Signs of diabetes can include feeling incredibly thirsty all the time, weight and muscle loss, urinating frequently, and tiredness. Treatment usually involves insulin injections to keep blood sugar under control.
Type 2 diabetes is much more common, and it’s the type of diabetes you’re hearing all the warnings about. The likelihood of developing this type increases as you get older, and lifestyle choices have a lot to do with its development. People who are overweight, who don’t eat healthy, and who don’t get enough exercise are much, much more likely to develop it.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are similar to those of type 1 and can also include blurry vision and a tendency for cuts and scratches to heal more slowly than usual. It can lead to lifelong heart problems, an increased likelihood of stroke and kidney failure, and the possibility of lower-limb amputation.
There’s also a condition called pre-diabetes that occurs before full-blown, type 2 diabetes develops. It’s characterized by having blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be dangerous on their own.
Other circumstances can trigger other types of diabetes as well. Surgically induced diabetes happens when, as its name suggests, surgery on the pancreas impacts its ability to produce insulin either permanently or temporarily. Certain chemicals, such as steroids like prednisone, can also impact the body’s ability to produce insulin and process blood sugar, resulting in what’s called chemically induced diabetes.
There’s also a newly discovered form of diabetes that’s often diagnosed as type 2, but can more accurately be described as type 1.5. When type 1 diabetes progresses more slowly than normal, it’s said to be type 1.5 (or latent autoimmune diabetes in adults).