There are several types of diabetes. I will discuss a few of the more common types in depth, and then provide links to extra reading about the other types.
Type 1 Diabetes
This is the kind of diabetes I have! This type of diabetes has also been called Juvenile Diabetes and Insulin Dependent Diabetes, but is now generally known as Type 1. This type of diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which, basically, the body’s own immune system turns against and destroys the part of the body that makes insulin (called beta cells). It is not presently known what causes the immune system to attack and kill the beta cells. Type 1 diabetics generally don’t produce ANY insulin. Some times, if diagnosed very early, they will still produce a little bit for awhile, but will eventually stop producing insulin completely. Type 1 diabetics MUST take insulin daily in order to survive. This was previously called Juvenile Diabetes, because it was thought that people usually got this disease as a child, but we now know that many adults can develop this type of diabetes too. Type 1 diabetes often develops very quickly, and people that get it often get sick very quickly and get a quick diagnosis.
Type 2 Diabetes
This is the most common form of diabetes. It has also been called Adult Onset Diabetes, or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes, but is now known as Type 2. In this type of diabetes the body either does not make enough insulin or the body doesn’t respond properly to the insulin it does make (this is called insulin resistance). This type of diabetes has often been associated with older adults, overweight or obesity, or physical inactivity. We now know that this type of diabetes is NOT restricted to adults (many children and teens are developing it now, which is why it is no longer called Adult-Onset Diabetes), and is also not necessarily associated with overweight or obese adults. There are plenty of Type 2 diabetics who are very active, thin, and who eat healthy. There are certain ethnic groups who are predisposed to this type of diabetes (ex: Native Americans), and we know that Type 2 can often run in families. This type of diabetes usually develops slowly, and people can remain undiagnosed for years, because symptoms are usually not as pronounced. People with Type 2 are often treated with oral medications, diet and exercise, but can also be treated with insulin (which is why it is no longer called Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes).
Type 1.5 or LADA
This type is also called Slow Onset Type 1 or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults (LADA). Basically, it is slow developing Type 1 diabetes, and often gets misdiagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. It can be dangerous, because if a Type 1.5 is misdiagnosed as a Type 2, many treatments for Type 2 won’t work for Type 1.5, and they will often go long periods before they get the correct diagnosis and the correct treatments that work. This is a great link that explains more about Type 1.5 or LADA.
This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy, and often disappears after the birth, but not always. This type of diabetes can be caused by hormones present during pregnancy or because there is a shortage of insulin during pregnancy. This type of diabetes often has no symptoms, which is why pregnant women almost always get tested for it at a certain point during pregnancy. Women that develop this type of diabetes have a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
There are several other, less common, types of diabetes. Here are two really great links to read more about all the different types. This link is from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and this one is from diabetesnet.com (a web-site that was co-founded by a guy named John Walsh, who has written some great books about using insulin).
So, sorry that post was long, but it is important that people know the differences between the different types! Not all diabetes is the same!! It is also important to know that there is no stereotypical diabetic (even though popular media often portrays it that way) and that you shouldn’t judge someone or their lifestyle based on the type of diabetes they have. Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now.
Next Up: There is no cure for diabetes, there are only treatments! What are the treatments for diabetes?