Types of diabetes

There are different kinds of diabetes. Put simply, T1 diabetics do not make any of their own insulin and therefore must take insulin either by injection or from an insulin pump. T2 diabetics are still making their own insulin but it is either not enough or they are resistant to their own insulin and must take medications to overcome this resistance. Pregnancy diabetes occurs in 1 in 20 pregnancies. This is usually a temporary form of diabetes, but these women may be genetically predisposed to T2 diabetes in later life. Besides this, there are sorts of diabetes that look like type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but are slightly different, such as MODY and LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults).

Type 1 diabetes.

Normally, insulin is made by groups of beta cells in the pancreas. For people with type 1 diabetes, these cells are destroyed by their own immune system. That means that the pancreas does not make insulin anymore. Type 1 diabetes normally comes on quickly and has been thought to occur mostly in people under 30 years of age, although older people are now being diagnosed with T1.

Type 2 diabetes

With this type of diabetes, the body usually still makes insulin, but not enough. Or, the insulin cannot do its work properly anymore, because the body is insensitive to it. In this case there is an insufficient amount of glucose taken from the blood. Next to that the fat metabolism and the blood pressure are disrupted. Type 2 diabetes is usually treated with medicines, diet and exercise. It is to be remembered though, that this is a progressive disease and that it may have to be treated with insulin at some point. Latest thinking is that rather than being a “last resort”, insulin may be introduced into a T2’s medical regime earlier in order to protect the remaining beta cells. In the past mostly older people got T2 diabetes. Their age is however getting lower in western countries.

Pregnancy (Gestational) diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in women during pregnancy because the mother’s body is not able to produce enough insulin. High blood sugar levels in the mother’s body are passed through the placenta to the developing baby. This can cause health problems. Gestational diabetes usually begins in the second half of pregnancy and goes away after the baby is born. This makes it different to the more common forms of diabetes which, once they occur, are permanent.

The cause of gestational diabetes is unknown. It is thought that the hormones produced during pregnancy may block the action of insulin. Gestational diabetes can happen if the mother’s body can’t produce enough extra insulin to counteract this blocking effect.

LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults)

LADA can come on at any age and is a slow progression of T1, sometimes known as T1.5. Initially this can be mistakenly diagnosed as T2. For a “honeymoon” period the person may still produce some of their own insulin, making an insulin regime somewhat hit and miss. In addition, LADA diabetics are often treated with T2 type oral medication in the early stages.

MODY (Mature Onset Diabetes of the Young)

Until very recently, this form of diabetes was thought to only affect people under age 25. However, more recent genetic studies where the family members of people diagnosed with MODY were given genetic testing turned up the fact that people with MODY are often misdiagnosed as having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and that MODY can develop into full-fledged diabetes as late as age 50. For more information click here.