Understanding Diabetes

Types of Diabetes

There are several types of diabetes, the most commonly known being type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and Gestational diabetes. Recently, type 1.5 diabetes, or latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (LADA), has been identified by clinicians.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes was once known as “juvenile-onset diabetes” or “insulin-dependent diabetes.” A type 1 diabetic’s body stops producing insulin. About five to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but can occur at any age and often occurs in people who are thin or of average weight.

Type 1 diabetes results when the body’s immune system destroys the beta cells of the pancreas. No one really knows the cause. However scientists believe that both family history and environmental triggers (such as a virus like Coxsackie B virus) may play a part in triggering this “autoimmune process.”

Beta cells are the “factories” that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes can’t produce their own insulin. Therefore, they need daily doses of insulin to survive.

Any of the following symptoms may begin suddenly and dramatically:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Fruity smell to breath
  • Sugar in urine
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Suddenly experiencing blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • “Pins and needles” feeling in feet
  • Itchy skin
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Numerous vaginal and bladder infections
  • Loss of consciousness

Type 2 Diabetes

With type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin but either it’s not enough or the body can’t use it properly because:

  1. The beta cells produce insulin, but not enough to lower blood sugar and meet the body’s energy needs.
  2. In a condition called “insulin resistance,” the body’s cells do not work properly and are unable to let glucose inside.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases. It usually develops after age 40 and is often referred to as “adult-onset diabetes.” But, like type 1, type 2 diabetes can develop at any age and is now being seen in children.

For some people, type 2 may be controlled with a program of proper exercise, diet, and pills. It is possible for these people to keep blood sugars close to normal, to feel healthy and energetic, and to prevent or delay diabetes complications. However, some people with type 2 diabetes may need to take pills and/or doses of insulin to control their blood sugar.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are similar to those of type 1. However, they usually develop much more slowly and may go unnoticed for months or years.

  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Extreme thirst
  • Sugar in urine
  • Increased hunger
  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Itchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • A feeling of “pins and needles” in feet
  • Frequent vaginal and bladder infections

While the exact cause of type 2 diabetes and what triggers it is still unknown, new research is being conducted and new theories are being developed.

Genetics and family history play a major role. Children of people with type 2 diabetes should have their blood sugar levels checked during their annual physical exam.

Research indicates that lifestyle also plays a role. As people are becoming more sedentary, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of new cases of type 2 Diabetes, especially in overweight and inactive children.

Gestational diabetes increases a woman’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life by almost 40 percent.

Race and ethnicity play a part in increased chances of developing type 2 diabetes, especially in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy and usually goes away after the birth of the baby. It is present in less than 15% of all pregnancies and is usually detected at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes should be treated during the pregnancy to prevent problems for the mother and the baby.

Your chances of developing gestational diabetes increase if you:

  • Are older than 25 years
  • Had a previous birth of a very large baby or a stillbirth
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Had an earlier pregnancy with gestational diabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Have too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios)

Gestational diabetes is often treatable with a meal plan and exercise. If blood sugars can’t be kept in their target range by diet and exercise, insulin therapy may be required.

Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood (LADA)

LADA has virtually the same underlying cause as type 1 diabetes. However, LADA develops as a slower rate and occurs later in life.

Other Types of Diabetes

Diabetes can occur in people with certain conditions:

  • Insulin-receptor disorders
  • Pancreatic diseases
  • Drug or chemical-induced diabetes
  • Endocrinopathies
  • Certain genetic syndromes

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