Types of Diabetes

Types of Diabetes

Diabetes takes different forms, from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. There are several types, but type 2 diabetes is by far the most common. Of the nearly 26 million people who have diabetes in America, 90 percent to 95 percent have type 2, about 5 percent have type 1 and less than 5 percent have some other form of diabetes. Here's a quick look at the different types of diabetes.

A person with prediabetes has abnormally high blood sugar levels, but not high enough to warrant a diagnosis of diabetes. Prediabetes is a fairly new term, and it's sometimes still called impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose.

A prediabetes diagnosis is both good and bad news. It's bad news because prediabetes means you're on the road to full-blown type 2 diabetes and increases your risk for heart disease and other conditions related to chronically high blood sugar. It's good news because at this early stage you can still reverse the condition and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To do that, you have to know you have prediabetes. An estimated 57 million Americans have prediabetes, but many don't know it. Ask your doctor if you're at risk.

Type 1 Diabetes
A person with type 1 diabetes has an immune system that attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. With little or no insulin, glucose builds up in the blood because it can't get inside the cells that need it. People with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin injections or doses of insulin from an insulin pump to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes is often called juvenile-onset diabetes (because it's most often diagnosed in children and young adults) or insulin-dependent diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes
A person with type 2 diabetes either produces too little insulin to regulate blood sugar, or his or her body's cells become resistant to insulin and can't use it properly. Sometimes, both problems occur. Type 2 diabetes often starts with insulin resistance. As a result, the pancreas produces more blood sugar than the body needs. Eventually, the pancreas' beta cells wear out from constant overproduction of insulin and can no longer make enough of it.

Fortunately, you can manage type 2 diabetes with a healthy diet, regular exercise and weight control. Your doctor may prescribe medication as well.

Gestational Diabetes
In some people, diabetes develops for the first time during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes and occurs in about 7 percent of pregnant women. Most often, it's a temporary condition that goes away after pregnancy, but in some women, it can continue even after childbirth. Either way, gestational diabetes increases a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes up to 60 percent in the future.

Other Types of Diabetes
Less common types of diabetes are caused by genetic conditions, medications, pancreatic disorders, infections and other diseases.

Medically reviewed in August 2020.

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