Types of Diabetes

Understand Diabetes - There are three types of diabetes with different symptoms - Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes,and Gestational Diabetes.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
DiabetesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Aug 11, 2011Updated at: Apr 12, 2012
Types of Diabetes

Types of DiabetesDiabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the blood glucose level is increased. This occurs due to lack of insulin production, decrease in secretion of insulin or resistance to insulin (that is insulin is present in the blood but the cells do not respond properly to the insulin). There are several types of diabetes but the three main types of diabetes are:

  1. Type 1 diabetes
  2. Type 2 diabetes
  3. Gestational diabetes

Read on to know more on the three main types of diabetes.


Type 1 Diabetes


Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is it is caused due to a disturbed immune system which attacks the beta cells of the pancreas (beta cells of the pancreas secrete insulin). This destroys the beta cells of the pancreas and thereby leads to deficiency of insulin (deficiency of insulin causes increase of blood sugar).

People with type 1 diabetes need insulin daily to maintain blood sugar levels. Oral anti-diabetic drugs are not effective for treatment of type 1 diabetes. The exact cause of an autoimmune attack on beta-cells of the pancreas is not known. Many factors such as genetic and environmental factors, and also possibly viruses are involved. Type 1 diabetes most often develops in children and young adults but it can also occur in adults.

The duration of symptoms of type 1 diabetes is usually short, but the destruction of beta cells starts long before the symptoms appear. The common symptoms of type 1 diabetes are dry mouth, increased thirst and frequent urination, increased hunger, weight loss, patches of darkened skin, and fatigue or excessive tiredness. Delay in diagnosis or treatment with insulin in a person with type 1 diabetes can cause a life-threatening diabetic coma. It is known as diabetic ketoacidosis (characterised by highly elevated blood sugar levels, presence of ketone compounds in the blood and urine, and dehydration).

Type 2 Diabetes


This is the commonest type of diabetes. More than 90% diabetics have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs most often in older people. Some of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and race. However, lately type 2 diabetes is being increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents as well.

In most people with type 2 diabetes, in the initial stages the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but the cells do not respond effectively to insulin due to insulin resistance. This causes increase in blood sugar levels and the cells of the body are not able to use insulin. After a period of time insulin production in type 2 diabetes decreases.

It is possible to have type 2 diabetes for years and not even know about it. Many people ignore the symptoms of diabetes as when seen in isolation they seem benign and harmless. Some of the common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are fatigue, frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger, weight gain or loss, blurred vision, dry and itchy skin and slow healing of wounds or sores. Most people with type 2 diabetes can seek treatment with oral hypoglycaemic drugs but some people may need insulin.

Gestational Diabetes


Gestational diabetes is the type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy (high blood glucose levels are first diagnosed during pregnancy). It affects about 4% of all pregnancies and mostly resolves after the baby is born. In gestational diabetes like type 1 and 2 diabetes, glucose is not properly utilized by the cells of the body and it leads to high blood glucose levels. Glucose is a type of simple sugar formed in the body during digestion. Insulin helps in proper utilisation of glucose. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the increased demand of insulin as pregnancy advances can result in gestational diabetes.

Some of the common symptoms of gestational diabetes are increased frequency of urination, rapid or sudden weight gain, always feeling tired or exhausted, dizziness or light-headedness that increases on standing up, feeling very hungry or hungry most of the time. Blurred or hazy vision, frequent infections of the urinary tract, and vaginal infections are its other symptoms. Women with gestational diabetes are treated with insulin and oral hypoglycaemic drugs are not used. The risk of type 2 diabetes in these women is increased specially in the later stages of life but maintaining a healthy body weight and being physically active may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.


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