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Types of Diabetes

The Similarities & Differences of the 3 Types of Diabetes

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Under normal circumstances, the glucose (sugar) levels in your blood rise after you eat a meal or snack. In response, the body produces a hormone called insulin, which is necessary in order for the body to convert glucose in your bloodstream into usable energy. But if insulin isn’t available, or if the body isn’t using it correctly, your blood glucose will remain elevated, and that can be harmful to your body. The latter describes diabetes mellitus, a serious health condition that affects millions of people. There are actually three variations of this disease, but all characterized by abnormally high levels of glucose in the bloodstream.

Type 1 Diabetes
This form of diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, meaning your own immune system is damaging your body and causing the disease. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys cells of the pancreas (called beta cells), which are the only cells in the body that manufacture insulin. Type 1 diabetes used to be called “insulin-dependent” because people with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin via pump or injection to survive. It is sometimes called “juvenile-onset” diabetes, because it usually makes its appearance during childhood or young adulthood. Between 5% and 10% of people with diabetes have type 1, which doesn't have a cure. Type 1 diabetics must work to manage the disease for the rest of their lives.

Who’s at risk?
No one knows exactly what causes type 1 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes include autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors (such as viruses). While it’s most often diagnosed in children, type 1 diabetes can occur at any age and is most prevalent in Caucasians.

Can it be prevented?
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this form of diabetes.

What are the symptoms?
The destruction of the body’s beta cells can begin years before a person notices symptoms, which usually appear suddenly. These include: increased thirst and urination, persistent hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, and severe fatigue.

How is it treated?
Since they can’t make insulin on their own, people with type 1 diabetes must supply the body with insulin by using a pump or injections. Without a steady supply of insulin, type 1 diabetics can develop diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition.

Type 2 Diabetes
In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is still manufacturing insulin, but for some reason the cells of the body are not using it properly—a condition known as insulin resistance. In response, the pancreas produces more and more insulin, wearing itself out and eventually losing its ability to produce insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range. Similar to type 1 diabetes, high levels of blood glucose result, making it difficult for the body to use this glucose as fuel. Type 2 diabetes used to be called “non-insulin-dependent” or “adult-onset” or diabetes, but more and more cases are being diagnosed in children. Between 90% and 95% of diabetes cases are type 2. Like individuals with type 1, type 2 diabetics must also work to manage the disease for the rest of their lives.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • What about diabetes insipidus? - 3/15/2014 12:53:53 AM
  • Thank you! Finally, somewhere that makes a distinction between the types! I've had Type 1 since I was 3 years old, and have gotten so tired of people assuming that all types are the same. No, I can't be cured. No, losing weight will not make it "magically" disappear. And no, I didn't get it from eating too much sugar. I want to post this article all over the world right now! - 11/6/2013 1:40:58 PM
  • i am also having the type "LADA" , still without the need of any meds and hopefully will take many years for it.
    got also more autoimmune diseases like HASHIMOTO & CELIAC - 1/21/2013 7:57:05 PM
  • IVYMH82
    Only issue I have with this article is that there are 4 types of Diabetes. There is also Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA for short) and also known as diabetes type 1.5. It's the form I have and while it mirrors Type 1 diabetes, the onset takes longer to occur, generally happening over months to years, as opposed to weeks to months like with Type 1. Aside from that, excellent article. - 7/31/2012 11:49:19 AM
  • PF2FAR
    Very well written article, however, don't get the reason for the cup in the picture!!!!
    Only you can control your Diabetes, make the right decisions daily and it will not control you/ - 6/27/2012 8:47:14 PM
  • Does anyone else wonder-"Whats in the cup?" Informative article. - 6/27/2012 6:33:34 PM
  • 1954MARG
    People of South Asian ethnicity are also at increased risk of developing diabetes. If your father has diabetes the risk of developing diabetes yourself is much higher than if any other family member has the disease.
    Diabetes is a lifelong incurable progressive condition that can be well controlled by lifelong attention to diet plus exercise and/or medication as advised. The main complications of diabetes are caused by damage to both large and small blood vessels and nerve endings that are avoidable if treatment is followed rigorously, but cannot be reversed and can lead to disabling damage to eyes and organs and limbs.
    Very scary, so thank you very much for bringing this to everyone's attention. - 6/27/2012 2:53:45 PM
  • We discovered my daughter had type 1 diabetes at age 3 almost two years ago. Life changing. She takes 5 shots of insulin a day, and has to check her blood sugar before each meal and bed time, many nights I have to check her in the middle of the night. It's very important people know the signs of diabetes. Untreated it's not thtat they can go into kedosis, they will. When we made the discovery with my daughter she was very sick, had lost a lot of weight and could hardly stay awake. We spent the better part of a week in the hospital, many kids get a lot sicker. Thank you for sharing this important information. - 6/27/2012 8:03:44 AM
  • Thank you for your article. My son was also diagnosed at 14 with type one, through aa sports physical. He now wears a pump and is keeping his levels down through exercise and sensible eating. He still hates every minute of being the kid who has a wire going into his stomache comming out of his pocket but he knows it is his life line. - 6/27/2012 6:57:16 AM
  • There is another rare kind of diabetes - MODY - Mature Onset Diabetes in the Young. It is genetic and is generally diagnosed before age 25. - 6/27/2012 6:45:15 AM
  • Gestational diabetes is typically treated with insulin, not oral hypoglycemics, because pills can cross the placenta and affect the fetus. - 10/3/2011 5:23:41 AM
  • Even though my brother's death certificate probably lists the cause of death as kidney failure and congestive heart failure, we know that Jerry died from diabetes. Diabetes kills internal organs, and there is still no cure. He was diagnosed at age 14, after a physical to play high school sports. He lived 35 years with the disease, and had diabetic retinopathy, a 5-way heart bypass which resulted in a raging E-coli infection and had most of his sternum and a lot of muscle removed, then had to have a muscle grafted to cover his heart, a kidney transplant, bowel resection due to the scar tissue from all the surgeries after his heart surgery, and finally heart attacks and a pacemaker put in before he went into kidney failure again (15 years after the transplant...whic
    h was longer than the average transplant lasts) and the congestive heart failure. Be aware of who's at risk, and the symptoms of diabetes. Don't let your family go through the pain and heartache of watching a loved one battle this disease. - 12/10/2009 11:16:31 AM
  • I answered 4 because I was including diabetes insipidus......pr
    obably being too technical right? - 9/29/2009 10:04:16 PM
  • Diabetes is a hard thing to have, it is like being in a bubble some of the time. It is true, you have to make sure that it is keep in good control and make sure to see your doctor.
    Diabetes run through my family. My dad's sister has it, my grandpa had it and in my family I was the one that got it. I have an younger sister and she is great about my disease and my family and friends. Life can't stop just because the disease can't control me, I have to control it. It is hard but I know I can fight it. - 7/8/2008 9:03:30 PM

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