Diabetes is common across age groups and cuts across genders. Most of us have heard of diabetes and have a basic idea about it. Unfortunately, the prevalence of diabetes in youth and young adults is increasing. However, the point to ponder is that there are different types of diabetes.
For an average person, diabetes means controlling your food intake, particularly those containing sugar. However, knowing the kind of diabetes gives you a better understanding of the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment related to the disease.
There are four common types of diabetes; type 1, type 2, prediabetes, and gestational. In addition, there is a range of other diabetes types, such as cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, monogenic diabetes, and diabetes caused by rare syndromes.
About 2% of people suffer from these types of diabetes, equally crucial as type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, because these diabetes types are rare, they often get misdiagnosed.
Although diabetes takes many different forms, it is one that you can manage with the right treatments, health tips, exercise, and nutrition you need.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic or long-lasting health condition that occurs when the pancreas cannot make sufficient insulin, or the body fails to use its insulin. Insulin mainly controls how your body uses the carbohydrates in your food.
Carbohydrates break down into a sugar called glucose. Insulin allows muscles, liver and fat cells to take up this glucose for energy. However, having too little insulin or being unable to use insulin effectively leads to raised blood glucose levels, also known as hyperglycaemia. Having long-term high glucose levels cause damage to the optimal functioning of the body and lead to diabetes.
Approximately 537 million adults around the age range of 20-79 years are living with diabetes. While several factors influence the development of diabetes, lifestyle and dietary changes can ensure successful diabetes management.
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Types of Diabetes
Research shows that under half a billion people are living with diabetes worldwide. However, not everyone has the same type of diabetes. You may have heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but there are other lesser-known forms of diabetes, which can be transient, permanent, genetic, or rare.
Here are some common and less common types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where your body produces no insulin or cannot produce enough insulin. Studies show that this type constitutes about 5%–10% of all diabetes cases.
The exact causes of this disease are unknown. Still, genetics and environmental factors can trigger your immune system to attack the insulin-producing cells.
In other words, the cellular destruction of beta cells in the pancreas causes the body to produce very little or no insulin. As a result, there’s no insulin to allow glucose to enter your body’s cells. As a result, the unused glucose builds up in your bloodstream, encouraging high blood sugar levels. So, you need daily insulin injections to control your blood glucose levels.
Previously, type 1 diabetes was called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes. It can affect people of any age, gender, race, or colour.
However, it usually occurs in children or young adults. Plus, having a close family member with type 1 diabetes can increase your risk of developing the disease.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, the most common diabetes, develops when the body becomes less insulin sensitive or the pancreas produces less insulin due to diet and obesity. About 90-95% of cases worldwide are type 2 diabetes. Like type 1 diabetes, your body cells fail to use insulin as they should.
People who are obese, overweight, sedentary, have a family history of type 2, are 45+, or have a smoking history are more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes.
Other diseases, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, high cholesterol, or hypertension, will also increase your risk. Type 2 diabetes was earlier known as adult-onset diabetes.
Still, with a rise in obesity among children, more adolescents are now developing this condition. Nevertheless, type 2 diabetes is often a milder diabetes form than type 1.
As the name suggests, gestational diabetes affects pregnant women and causes high blood sugar during pregnancy. A study shows that gestational diabetes mellitus occurs in about 5-9% of pregnancies but usually goes away after giving birth.
However, women with a history of gestational diabetes are at a high risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes in the years following their pregnancy. For those reasons, it is important to receive follow-up glucose monitoring in the postpartum period. Continue to get tested every 1 to 3 years to ensure your blood sugar levels are healthy and normal.
A screening test or blood test during 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy can help detect gestational diabetes. Some pregnant women may require insulin injections after they are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. However, most can manage it with a healthy diet, appropriate exercise, and weight management.
Prediabetes means your blood glucose levels are beyond normal but not high enough to diagnose as type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Approximately 88 million Americans have prediabetes, affecting men more than women. You can have prediabetes for years but remain unaware due to its silent signs and symptoms.
So it often goes undetected until it progresses into type 2 diabetes. Therefore, if you have any diabetes risk factors, check your blood sugar levels yearly.
Mature Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY)
MODY is a rare type of diabetes that runs strongly in families due to a single gene mutation. So, children have a 50% chance of inheriting MODY if a parent has this gene mutation. Furthermore, if the child inherits the gene mutation, they will likely develop MODY before they turn 25.
It occurs irrespective of their weight, ethnicity, or any lifestyle changes they may make. There are four types of MODY; HNF1-alpha, HNF4-alpha, HNF1-beta, and Glucokinase. HNF4-alpha is a scarce form of MODY diabetes and requires glucose treatment at birth for low blood sugar.
Wolfram Syndrome or DIDMOAD syndrome stands for Diabetes Insipidus, Diabetes Mellitus, Optic Atrophy, and Deafness. Everyone with this condition will develop one of the two types of diabetes at some point.
Alström Syndrome causes type 2 diabetes in youth. It is a rare genetic disorder and leads to severe insulin resistance.
Type 1.5 diabetes
Type 1.5 diabetes, or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), has symptoms that cross between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
It is a form of diabetes common among adults between 30-50. Type 1.5 diabetes is more aggressive than type 2, but symptoms develop much more slowly than type 1.
What Causes Diabetes?
Diabetes causes vary depending on the type of diabetes you have, your age, weight, genetic makeup, family medical history, ethnicity, health and environmental factors. For example, the causes of type 1 diabetes are different from that of type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes Causes
Doctors are still not sure what causes type 1 diabetes since it has got nothing to do with lifestyle or diet. However, it is an autoimmune reaction where the immune system destroys the pancreatic cells that produce insulin.
Underlying genetic disposition, chemical food toxins, and viral or bacterial infection may also be type 1 diabetes cause.
Type 2 Diabetes Causes
Type 2 diabetes has multifactorial causes, including your diet, lifestyle habits, weight, and age. Research shows that the leading cause of the type 2 diabetes epidemic is the interaction between environmental and genetic risk factors. Some risk factors to watch out for are:
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Increasing age
- History of gestational diabetes
- Impaired glucose tolerance
Gestational Diabetes Causes
Lots of physical and hormonal changes happen to your body during pregnancy. The hormonal changes during this period make you vulnerable to insulin resistance and make it challenging to use glucose properly for energy. As a result, sugar levels rise and lead to gestational diabetes.
Other causes and risk factors of gestational diabetes include:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Carrying a large baby weighing over 9lb or 4 kg
- Family history of gestational diabetes
- Overweight or obese
Other Diabetes Causes
Certain medications like steroids and antipsychotics can cause other types of diabetes. Alström Syndrome, Wolfram Syndrome, and MODY are cases of rare, genetically inherited diabetes.
Other causes include:
- Pancreatitis or pancreatectomy
- Cushing’s syndrome
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of different types of diabetes are often similar to one another. Moreover, diabetes symptoms can be mild or absent, and people may live undiagnosed for several years. However, diabetes related to genetically inherited syndromes can show specific warning signs and complications.
Here are some signs and symptoms of diabetes:
- Excessive thirst and dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Sudden weight loss
- Lack of energy, tiredness
- Constant hunger
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of wounds
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
- Recurrent skin infections
The HealthifyMe Note
The early diabetes symptoms are not as noticeable as you may expect. However, it is also easy to mistakenly overlook the warning signs as the symptoms of other conditions, like overworking, ageing, menopause, or hot weather. Therefore, take your time with the symptoms to show and get your blood sugar levels checked regularly.
How Common is Diabetes?
Diabetes statistics are rising, and the disease is increasingly common worldwide. It is one of the world’s fastest-growing chronic diseases, affecting people who are obese, overweight, sedentary or have any metabolic disorder.
A study shows that 46.5% of adults with diabetes are undiagnosed, 24.2 million adults aged 65+ have prediabetes, and half of the women with gestational diabetes history will develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Type 2 diabetes, which takes longer to develop, is more prevalent among older age groups. But the prevalence also varies between different racial and ethnic groups. While diabetes is prevalent, a well-balanced diet and regular exercise is the best way to keep it at bay.
What are the Potential Complications?
The complications are often silent and can vary between people. It also depends on the diabetes type since some gradually cause complications while others resolve before causing any issues. For example, brittle diabetes often leads to depression, stress, and other mental health issues. Conversely, transient neonatal diabetes usually does not develop any chronic complications since it resolves before a baby turns one.
Common diabetes complications, over time, include:
- Retinopathy and, in worst cases, blindness
- Heart disease and stroke
- Nephropathy (kidney disease)
- Skin infections
- Lower leg amputations
- Heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
Pregnant women with gestational diabetes may face these complications:
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
- Congenital disabilities
- High risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life (both mother and child)
How Are Different Types of Diabetes Treated?
Sulfonylureas and metformin are the most commonly used oral medications for type 2 diabetes. Metformin is the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes rely on an insulin syringe, insulin pen or insulin pump rather than pills. If steroid-induced diabetes becomes chronic, you must take oral diabetes medication for life.
If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin injections without fail. When oral medication, diet, and other lifestyle interventions fail to control high sugar levels, people with type 2 diabetes may require insulin injections.
HNF4-alpha and HNF1-beta form of MODY usually progresses to require insulin. In addition, those with Alström Syndrome and Wolfram Syndrome often need insulin injections for treatment.
The primary focus of treating diabetes is a healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking and alcohol consumption, and weight management.
A healthy lifestyle with combination therapy options and oral drugs in genetic cases helps manage the condition. Modifying your diet and getting regular exercise is also the initial treatment for gestational diabetes.
Doctors suggest people with diabetes should check their glucose level regularly to keep it under control and avoid potential complications. In such conditions, you can switch to HealthifyPro 2.0 for accessing Comprehensive Glucose Monitoring, which provides real-time insights into your glucose levels.
The CGM is a wearable sensor that you can wear on your arm. It syncs with your phone, laptop, or computer to give concurrent data about your blood sugar levels. CGM also notifies you and your coach how glucose levels respond to a particular food combination and exercise. It is particularly beneficial for hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic patients.
The HealthifyPro CGM is easy to manage and takes only a few seconds to attach to your arm. Since blood-sugar food responses vary from person to person, purchasing a Pro kit gives a more individualised insight into how your body responds to a particular food.
Access to consistent and accurate blood sugar detection can help you make informed choices and eat healthy to support diabetes management.
The HealthifyMe Note
There is no way to cure most forms of diabetes. However, you can lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking. However, lesser-known forms of diabetes caused by rare, genetically inherited syndromes require alternative treatments. They are not similar to common diabetes types. Therefore, talk with your doctor to create a diabetes care plan that fits your symptoms and needs.
How Can You Prevent Diabetes?
Although you can not change diabetes risk factors like genetics, family history and race, you can have some control over other risk factors. You can start with the following tips:
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like walking or swimming, five days per week.
- Watch your portions. Avoiding large portions of foods can help reduce insulin and blood sugar levels spike and decrease the risk of diabetes.
- If you’re overweight, losing just 5%-10% of your body weight can decrease insulin resistance.
- Drink water instead of other calorie-dense and sweetened beverages.
- Cut saturated fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet.
Today, AI-driven diabetes devices are available to help you better manage blood sugar levels. For example, HealthifyPRO 2.0 gives you an AI-powered personalised diet while considering your food choices and not imposing any dietary restrictions and lifestyle constraints. Therefore, if you are on your weight loss journey to improve blood sugar, switching to the Smart Plan can help you know what food to eat and how many calories to burn.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that has different forms. While type 1, type 2, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes are the most common, there is also a risk of genetically inherited diabetes.
In addition, there are many lesser-known forms of diabetes with a high chance of misdiagnosis, which is why it’s essential to know the different types. Regardless of what form of diabetes you might have, embracing healthy lifestyle changes can help with effective diabetes management.
If you’re looking for an advanced tech solution that tracks your glucose every minute, manages calories, and gives personalised guidance in real time, HealthifyPro is the pro solution for your diabetes.
HealthifyPro 2.0 comes with a continuous glucose monitor to check blood glucose levels as and when required throughout the day. In addition, the CGM records all the spikes you may experience from different foods and gives more reliable data than traditional methods of testing blood glucose levels.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are the 4 major types of diabetes?
A. Type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes are the 4 major types of diabetes. Among these, type 2 is more prevalent. Further, certain medications, surgery, and rare syndromes could lead to other types of diabetes.
Q. What do type 1 and type 2 diabetes mean?
A. Around 10% of diabetic patients have type 1 diabetes. It is an autoimmune reaction where the body’s defence system attacks the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. As a result, the body produces very little or no insulin. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is when the body does not fully respond to insulin. It is generally related to insulin resistance, which eventually exhausts the pancreas.
Q. What is the highest diabetes type?
A. The most common is type 2 diabetes, accounting for around 90% of all diabetes cases. Approximately 1 in 10 or more than 37 million Americans have type 2 diabetes. It often occurs among older adults who become insulin resistant. The rates of type 2 diabetes in children and teens are also rising, with 75% of children acquiring the disease when a close relative has diabetes.
Q. Can type 2 diabetes be cured?
A. There’s no cure yet for type 2 diabetes, but you manage the disease by losing weight, eating well and exercising. If diet and exercise are insufficient to manage type 2 diabetes, your doctor may suggest diabetes medications or insulin therapy. The cornerstone of preventing type 2 diabetes is a healthy lifestyle and regular glucose monitoring if you have any risk factors.
Q. Which diabetes type is curable?
A. There is no cure yet for diabetes. Still, people with type 2 diabetes can go into remission when blood glucose levels are in a normal range again. Further, gestational diabetes is a highly treatable and manageable condition that often goes away soon after delivery.
Q. Which type of diabetes is the most difficult to control?
A. Type 1 diabetes is worse than type 2 because it is an autoimmune disorder. Moreover, people with brittle diabetes find it difficult to manage everyday life. Brittle diabetes causes severe swings in blood glucose, resulting in frequent episodes of low or high blood sugar.
Q. What is the lowest type of diabetes?
A. Less than 10% of diabetes cases are type 1 diabetes. And only a minority of people, about 2%, have cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, monogenic diabetes, and diabetes caused by rare syndromes.
Q. How do you know if it’s type 1 or 2 diabetes?
A. Blood tests, such as fasting blood sugar, haemoglobin A1C, and glucose tolerance tests, help diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Your doctor will advise one or more blood tests for an accurate diagnosis. In addition, for type 1 diabetes, your blood gets tested for autoantibodies, which are not there in type 2 diabetes.
Q. Which type of diabetes requires insulin?
A. People with type 1 diabetes require daily insulin treatment, which can be rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, or long-acting insulins. In addition, when oral medication or a healthy lifestyle becomes insufficient to control high glucose levels, type 2 diabetes patients may require insulin injections.
Q. Is it better to take insulin or pills?
A. Your mode of treatment depends on the type of diabetes, how long you’ve had it, and how much insulin your body produces naturally. Pills can be easier to take than insulin, but there is a risk of potential side effects. Even if drugs are effective for some time, they can stop working. And if you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need insulin daily.