How Many Types of Diabetes are There?

There are a lot of types of diabetes. Some of these diabetes are type 1 and type 2 and others. Diabetes mellitus is a major problem that significantly affects the health of humans. It may result in a range of complications which can cause disability, and reduce people’s quality of life and life expectancy.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a long-term (chronic) condition in which the body loses its ability to control the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Insulin is a hormone produced by special cells in the pancreas that helps the body to convert glucose from food into energy. People with diabetes don’t have enough insulin, so glucose stays in the blood instead of being turned into energy, causing high blood sugar levels. Different insulin abnormalities cause different types of diabetes. Four main types of diabetes exist: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and other diabetes.

In people with insulin-treated diabetes, blood glucose can become too low which can lead to the brain and the body being unable to function properly. If the blood glucose levels are too high, various organs, such as the eyes and the kidneys, can be damaged.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes mainly occurs in children or young adults, although it can occur at any age. In type 1 diabetes the body stops making insulin. Without insulin, the body cells cannot turn glucose (sugar) into energy and burns its own fats as a substitute. Unless treated with daily injections of insulin, people with type 1 diabetes accumulate dangerous chemicals in their blood from the burning of fat, causing a condition known as ketoacidosis. This condition is potentially life threatening if not treated.

Most cases of type 1 diabetes are caused by the destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas by the body’s immune system. According to self-reported data from the 2007–08 National Health Survey, around 10% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs mostly in people aged 50 years and over but, although still uncommon in childhood, is becoming increasingly recognised in that group. People with type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but may not produce enough or cannot use it effectively. Type 2 diabetes may be managed with changes to diet and exercise, oral glucose-lowering drugs, insulin injections or a combination of these. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 87% of all people with diabetes, according to self-reported data from the 2007–08 National Health Survey.

Gestational diabetes mellitus

Gestational diabetes mellitus is a form of diabetes that may develop during pregnancy. It involves higher blood sugar levels appearing for the first time during pregnancy in women not previously diagnosed with other forms of diabetes. This type of diabetes is short term and, although it usually disappears after the baby is born, can recur in later pregnancies. Gestational diabetes is also a marker of increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Some cases of gestational diabetes are managed with changes to diet and exercise, and some require insulin treatment. About 5% of pregnant women are affected.

Other types of diabetes

Other types of diabetes can occur as a result of other conditions or syndromes, such as:

  • genetic defects of beta-cell function in the pancreas and insulin action (formerly referred to as maturity-onset diabetes of the young)
  • other diseases of the pancreas (including cystic fibrosis and cancer of the pancreas)
  • endocrine disorders (for example, acromegaly and Cushing’s Syndrome)
  • drug- or chemical-induced diabetes (for example, steroid-induced diabetes)
  • infections (for example, congenital rubella)
  • uncommon but specific forms of immune-mediated diabetes mellitus
  • other genetic syndromes sometimes associated with diabetes (AIHW 2011a).

Impaired glucose regulation

Impaired glucose regulation, or pre-diabetes, is the metabolic state between normal glucose regulation and the state of failed regulation known as diabetes. There are two categories of impaired glucose regulation:

  • impaired fasting glucose (IFG), and
  • impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).

IFG and IGT are considered risk factors for the future development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Source: 1


  1. Dwight Arcaute January 4, 2012
  2. Israel July 31, 2012

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