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How Many Different Types of Diabetes Are There?

How Many Different Types of Diabetes Are There?

Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin or properly use the insulin that is produced, or a combination of both. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. This hormone helps to transport glucose to the body tissues where it is stored and used for energy. Glucose is a form of sugar which is generally the main source of energy for your body. Without insulin, glucose cannot be processed, so it will stay in the bloodstream and begin to build up. Too much glucose in the blood stream can lead to serious health complications, such as nerve damage and kidney problems. People with diabetes take insulin medications to replace the natural hormone produced by the pancreas.

There are different types of diabetes, such as diabetes insipidus (DI), type 1 diabetes (T1D), type 2 diabetes (T2D), gestational diabetes, mature-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) and latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) among others. However, some of these types of diabetes are more prevalent compared to others. For example, MODY is a rare condition that affects one to two percent of the population with diabetes. This rare condition is caused by a change in one gene and develops before the patient reaches the age of 25. DI is another rare type of diabetes, which, unlike other types of diabetes, it is not related to blood glucose. DI is a condition caused by an antidiuretic hormone known as vasopressin, and it is characterized by excessive thirst and urination. LADA is a form of T1D which develops later in adulthood. This condition can be mistakenly diagnosed for T2D because it too develops later in adulthood, while T1D is usually diagnosed in childhood and young adults. However, the most common type of diabetes is T2D, which occurs when there is little insulin or the body cannot effectively use the insulin that is produced.

What are the different types of diabetes?

There are many different types of diabetes, but the most common include the following:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes

T1D

According to studies, T1D accounts for 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes. T1D is a chronic condition which occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing beta cells. As a result, people with T1D produce little or no insulin at all. It is not yet known what really causes the immune system to attack the beta cells. However, scientists believe that environmental and genetic factors could play a role. As more beta cells are killed off, the body cannot properly control blood glucose levels, which results in symptoms of diabetes.

T1D was previously known as juvenile diabetes since it commonly occurs in children and young adults. However, T1D tends to occur slowly in adults compared to children. Because T1D results in little or no insulin, people diagnosed with this condition require insulin through injection or with an insulin pump.

T2D

Type 2 diabetes occurs in the majority of people with diabetes. Studies show that 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have T2D. T2D was previously known as adult onset diabetes because it mainly occurs in people who are over 40 years. However, T2D can also occur in young adults and children. T2D occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or use it properly. This is known as insulin resistance. When people with T2D eat foods rich in sugar or carbohydrates, their bodies cannot metabolize the glucose. This leads to high blood glucose levels, which, if not treated, could damage the body’s organs. People with T2D are advised to avoid sugary foods so that they can stay healthy. However, people with T2D are generally still required to take anti-diabetic medications or insulin drugs so that they can keep their blood glucose levels under control.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is an acute condition which occurs during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes results in high blood sugar levels, which can affect your pregnancy and the health of your baby. However, women who have gestational diabetes can still give birth to healthy babies so long as they keep their blood sugar levels under control. Pregnant women can manage their blood sugar levels by exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, and if necessary taking medication. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after giving birth, but women who had this condition are likely to develop T2D in the future.

Causes of diabetes

T1D

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune condition. That means it occurs when the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas, which prevents insulin production. As a result of lack of insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells which lead to high blood sugar levels. What causes the immune system to destroy the beta cells is not yet discovered. However, studies reveal that it could be triggered by genetic predisposition and environmental factors. This damage is permanent, hence people with T2D require insulin medication to survive.

T2D

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body is resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is a condition when your body cannot use insulin efficiently. When this happens, your pancreas will try to produce more insulin until it cannot keep up with the body’s demand for insulin. Therefore, insulin being produced will decrease which results in high blood sugar levels. There are different risk factors which can contribute to T2D. They include being obese, lack of physical exercise, having unhealthy diet, or having high blood pressure or increased cholesterol levels.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy which increases the body’s insulin needs by two to three times. If the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, your body will not absorb sugar from the food you eat. This leads to high blood sugar levels that can cause gestational diabetes. You are at risk of developing gestational diabetes if you are overweight before pregnancy, have a family history with diabetes, or have had gestational diabetes before.

Diabetes Treatment

T1D

People with type 1 diabetes require insulin to treat their condition because their pancreas cannot produce insulin. Insulin can be injected under the skin using an injection pen or an insulin pump. However, insulin may require to be taken together with an exercise program and diet plan.

T2D

If you are diagnosed with T2D, you will be required to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly as you adopt a healthy eating habit and exercise regularly. It is important that you include whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your meal plan. In addition, you are required to eat less carbohydrate foods and animal products. In your exercise program, your doctor may ask you to include 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five times a week. You can also do other exercises such as walking, dancing and yoga. In case diet and exercise is not effective in controlling your blood glucose levels, you may require to adopt insulin therapy. Metformin is the first form of medication that is prescribed to people with T2D.

Gestational diabetes

When you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will ask you to check your blood glucose levels four times per week or more. Your doctor will check the weight you gain during your pregnancy and determine if you need insulin or other diabetes medication. However, you will be advised to adopt a healthy diet and exercise frequently. If you have problems controlling blood glucose levels with exercise and diet, then insulin medication will be prescribed.


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Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
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