Overview and types of Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterised by high blood glucose or sugar levels resulting from defect in insulin secretion, or action, or both. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism—the way the body uses digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food people eat is broken down into glucose, the form of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body. After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach.

When people eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into the cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body in the urine. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.

People with diabetes are unable to use the glucose in their food for energy. The glucose accumulates in the bloodstream, where it can damage the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Left untreated, diabetes can develop devastating complications. It is one of the leading causes of death. However, the good news is that with proper care, people with diabetes can lead normal, satisfying lives. Much of this care is "self-managed," meaning that if you have this condition, you must take day-to-day responsibility for your own care.

Types of Diabetes

A. Type 1 diabetes

This type of diabetes used to be called 'juvenile diabetes' or 'insulin-dependent diabetes.' Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed diabetes, so it's less common than type 2. It's an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system (the body's system for fighting infection) has gone haywire and is destroying the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin.

Without insulin, your body can't use sugar and fat broken down from the food you eat. When sugar can't get into your cells, your blood sugar rises and it's this high blood sugar level that damages your body. A person with type 1 diabetes can't make insulin. If you have this disease, you have to take insulin in order to live. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in children or young adults but can occur at any age. It can come on suddenly, often after an illness. There is no cure for type 1diabetes, but because of new knowledge about the disease and new medical advances, good self-care is now possible. A person with diabetes can live a healthy life and avoid or experience few complications from the disease.

Characteristics of type 1 diabetes

  • Most common in children

  • Quick onset with thirst, frequent urination, weight loss developing and worsening over days to weeks

  • Usually no known family history

  • No major risk factors; risk is increased if there is a strong family history

  • Insulin shots required to control diabetes

B. Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes used to be called 'non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus' or adult-onset diabetes. It differs from type 1 diabetes in that the body makes some insulin, but not enough; also, the body can't use the insulin efficiently.

Type2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes. It usually develops after the age of 30-40 years, however unfortunately now it is being increasingly diagnosed in younger people, even in children and adolescents. It is be related to the increased incidence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles among young people.

About 80 percent of those with type 2 diabetes are overweight. It is more common among people who are older, sedentary or obese, or have a family history of the disease. It may reappear in women who had gestational diabetes. It is more common among people of Asian, Hispanic, African or Native American ancestry.

Type2 diabetes is a progressive disease that can cause significant, severe complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and loss of limbs through amputation. Treatment differs at various stages of the condition. In its early stages, many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose levels by losing weight, eating properly and exercising. Many may subsequently need oral medication, and some people with type 2 diabetes may eventually need insulin shots to control their diabetes and avoid the disease's serious complications.

Even though there is no cure for diabetes, proper treatment and glucose control enable people with type 2 diabetes to live normal, productive lives.

Characteristics of Type 2 Diabetes


Key Symptoms of Diabetes