How Many Types of Diabetes Are There?
Type 1 Diabetes
Insulin, as you've already learned, is produced by special cells in the pancreas. The only job of these cells is to create and release insulin. Sometimes, for reasons scientists don't yet completely understand, the body's own immune system attacks and destroys these cells. In rare cases, these cells die without any obvious cause.
Whatever the reason, once the insulin-producing cells are dead, they do not grow back. That means the body can no longer produce any insulin at all. This condition is known as type 1 diabetes. Five percent of people with diabetes develop this type and are generally under the age of 30 at diagnosis.
Today, advances in medicine have made it possible for people with type 1 diabetes to live full, active lives. Treatment of Type 1 diabetes is insulin only. By taking insulin they can keep their blood glucose near normal ranges most or all of the time. This allows them to live normally and reduce or avoid long-term problems associated with diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Between 90 and 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Most people with type 2 diabetes are still able to produce insulin. Here's the problem: if you have this form of diabetes, your pancreas may not be producing enough insulin to meet your body's needs. And, your body may be resistant to the insulin that's available.
Over time, if your body's insulin needs have increased, your pancreas may not be able to keep up with the extra demand. People who are overweight sometimes develop type 2 diabetes because their insulin production simply can't keep up with the "insulin resistance" caused by their bodies.
The first approach to treating type 2 diabetes is usually a combination of healthier eating and more physical activity.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you first need to develop healthy eating habits. This means you need to know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. Healthy eating is vitally important for people with type 2 diabetes. It is the cornerstone of treatment.
Physical activity is also very important for people with type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps your body to burn glucose. This lowers your blood glucose level. It also keeps weight down, and can help protect you against cardiovascular problems (problems with your heart or circulatory system). These are often complications of diabetes.
In addition to managing your diabetes through healthy eating and physical activity, your doctor may also prescribe oral medications and/or insulin for you to take. These will be discussed later in this series.
Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women. It is first diagnosed during or after the sixth month of pregnancy. It is brought on by the normal hormonal and weight changes in the pregnant mother's body. Gestational diabetes generally disappears after the mother gives birth. However, women who have had this type of diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Treatment of gestational diabetes starts with healthy eating and more physical activity, if the mother is capable of it. If these measures do not bring blood glucose to normal ranges, the mother may also need insulin injections for the rest of her pregnancy.