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Types of Diabetes 

Diabetes is a condition in which a person has a high blood glucose (sugar) level as a result of the body either not producing enough insulin, or because the body’s cells do not properly respond to the insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas which enables the cells to absorb glucose. Once in the cell, the glucose is turned into energy. If the body’s cells are unable to absorb the glucose, the glucose accumulates in the blood (hyperglycemia), leading to various potential medical complications. 

There are several types of diabetes, the most common of which are:

  • Type 1 Diabetes

Results from the body's failure to produce insulin because the insulin producing cells (beta cells) in the pancreas have been destroyed by the immune system. Persons with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin to live. It is estimated that 5-10% of Americans are diagnosed with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 is considered an autoimmune disease.

  • Type 2 Diabetes 

Is due primarily to the body not responding normally to the insulin made by the pancreas (called insulin resistance) combined with relative insulin deficiency. Most Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2, most often as a result of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. There is a genetic component as well. 

Type 2 diabetes can be treated with diet, exercise, oral diabetes medications, insulin injections or some combination of these. In the past, type 2 diabetes was called adult onset diabetes because it usually occurred in adults over age 40. Today it is being diagnosed in children as well.

  • Gestational Diabetes (GDM)

Occurs when a pregnant woman who has never had diabetes before, has a high blood glucose level during pregnancy. This usually happens in the second trimester of pregnancy when the need for insulin increases and the insulin producing cells do not have the extra capacity to generate sufficient insulin for mother and child. Elevated blood glucose is the result. 

Gestational diabetes may be treated with diet, exercise, insulin injections or other approved oral diabetes medications. It is important to be treated aggressively to avoid complications in the infant. After delivery, the elevated blood glucose return to normal. In 5% to 10% of these GDM patients though, this is not the case and they are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Women who return to normal blood glucose after delivery have a 40% to 50% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes within 5-10 years especially if no life style changes are made.

  • Pre-Diabetes (IGT of IFG)

Results when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Other terms that represent this category are impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG). Normal fasting blood glucose when measured is below 100 mg/dl. A person with pre-diabetes has a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl. If the blood glucose level rises to 126 mg/dl or above, a person is diagnosed with diabetes. 

It is recommended that people with pre-diabetes reduce their weight by 5%-10% and participate in some type of modest physical activity daily. For some people with pre-diabetes, intervening early can actually reverse the problem and return elevated blood glucose levels to the normal range.

Hope for the Cure

All forms of diabetes have been treatable since insulin became medically available in 1921, but a cure is difficult. Pancreatic transplants have been tried with limited success in Type 1 diabetes. In Type 2 patients with morbid obesity, gastric bypass surgery has been successful for some. Gestational diabetes resolves after delivery but there is an increased risk for development of type 2 diabetes. There is a lot of research going on in the area of diabetes. As a result, several new classifications of diabetes drugs have been developed in the last 10 years to help patients control blood glucose. 

Regardless of diabetes type, without proper treatments and self management to control blood glucose, diabetes can result in many complications. Short term complications include hypoglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) , or nonketotic hyperosmolar (HHS) coma. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease leading to heart attack and stroke, kidney disease leading to chronic renal failure and dialysis, retinal damage leading to vision loss and blindness, poor circulation leading to amputations and circulation and nerve damage leading to sexual problems and erectile dysfunction. By achieving your goals for blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels by making healthy lifestyle choices (such as smoking cessation, maintaining a normal body weight, and healthy eating) you will halt the progression of complications, improve your quality of life , and enhance your peace of mind. 

Knowledge is power over this condition. Education provides the tools and support needed to make the changes for an active, healthy life.


For more information about different types of diabetes, contact the Scottsdale Healthcare Diabetes Center at 480-882-4800, option 1.