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Can I develop type 1 and type 2 diabetes as an adult?

Dr. Douglas S. Denham, DO
Family Practitioner

There is a late onset type 1 diabetes that can be seen in adults. Its causes are not as well understood. There seems to be a larger occurrence in African Americans and Latin Americans. It is not felt to be autoimmune mediated and may be more related to environmental factors as well as other metabolic deficits. There are also thoughts of an infectious etiology, though no clear correlation has been found. It can present with Diabetic Ketoacidosis and require insulin therapy for control with gradual improvement initially allowing treatment with diet and oral meds. This may only last for a short period of time before insulin is again required.

Gary Scheiner
Endocrinologist

Absolutely! Nearly half of all cases of type-1 diabetes are diagnosed after age 18. If the diabetes was caused by an immune system attack on the pancreas (measurable by blood tests/screenings for antibodies), the diabetes is classified as type-1, regardless of a person's age.

The great majority of people who develop type 1 diabetes are children and young adults under the age of 20. However-type 1 diabetes-which has also been referred to as juvenile diabetes-can occur at any age-though rare among adults. Of all of the adults who develop diabetes-about 5 -10 percent develop type 1 diabetes.

The great majority of people who develop type 2 diabetes are 45 and older. However, the incidence of type 2 diabetes in children and young adults is rising at a rapid rate. Some attribute this to the increasing epidemic of obesity in children and young adults, although family history and genetics may also play a part. Of all of the Americans who develop diabetes, about 90 to 95 percent develop type 2 diabetes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.