A Guide To The Different Types Of Diabetes

A Guide To The Different Types Of Diabetes

There are several different types of diabetes, but the most common are type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of cases, type 1 diabetes which makes up 7% of cases and gestational diabetes, which can develop during pregnancy. 

Several other, more uncommon, types of diabetes also exist, which are just as important but may attract less attention. By knowing about all the different types of diabetes, we can ensure that each patient gets the expert treatment and support they need. 


What is diabetes?


The World Health Organisation defines diabetes as:

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.‘ 

There are different types of diabetes, defined by their characteristics and their underlying cause. 

All forms of diabetes affect the way your body uses energy from your food. Your body breaks down carbohydrates in your diet into glucose. This glucose is absorbed into the blood to be distributed around your body. Glucose is a fuel source for cells in your muscles, organs and tissues, providing them with the energy they need to work and live.  

Insulin is a vital hormone that regulates the glucose levels in your blood. It acts as a chemical key, unlocking your cells so that they can use glucose to fuel their function. Insulin also lets your body store any excess glucose for future use. Without enough insulin, your cells are starved of energy, and glucose will build up in your bloodstream. 


Type 1 diabetes


Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body can’t produce any insulin. Without insulin, your cells don’t have the energy they need to work and stay alive. You will need to inject replacement insulin to control your blood glucose levels and stay healthy and well.  

Find out more about type 1 diabetes:


Type 2 diabetes 


Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting nine out of ten people living with diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin for its needs, or your body’s cells do not respond effectively to the insulin released. 

Lifestyle measures can often treat type 2 diabetes. Losing weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can control blood glucose levels for many people. 

Find out more about type 2 diabetes:


Gestational diabetes


Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that some women develop in pregnancy. In gestational diabetes, glucose levels in the blood rise because your pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin to meet the increasing needs during pregnancy. 

Gestational diabetes affects one in ten pregnant women. If diabetes in pregnancy isn’t carefully controlled, it can affect the health of the mother and the baby. Poorly controlled or untreated gestational diabetes is linked to birth complications, increased risk of Caesarean section, big babies and, sadly, increased perinatal death rates.


What is type 3 diabetes? 


The term type 3 diabetes is sometimes used, but it is not an officially recognised type of diabetes. The only numbered types recognised by the WHO, and other major international health organisations are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

Unofficial type 3 diabetes has been used to describe Alzheimer’s disease because insulin resistance in the brain is a feature of this form of dementia.

There is also a type of diabetes that has been called type 3c diabetes. Type 3c diabetes develops when a disease like cancer, pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis damages the pancreas. The pancreatic damage affects insulin production and release, causing diabetes. People can also develop type 3c diabetes if all or part of the pancreas is surgically removed.


Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults 


Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults or LADA is a type of diabetes that seems to be a little like type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is a slowly progressing type of autoimmune diabetes, in which the damage to the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas happens more gradually. Some people call it type 1 ½ diabetes or type 1.5 diabetes- but that isn’t an official term. 

Currently, LADA is not classified as a different type of diabetes. People with LADA usually start with oral medication such as Metformin. But as their natural insulin production reduces, they will progress on to insulin replacement therapy.


Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY)


Maturity onset diabetes of the young or MODY is a rare type of diabetes. It runs strongly in some families and is different from type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

Unlike type 1 and type 2 diabetes, MODY has a clear pattern of inheritance. A mutation in a single gene causes it. If one parent has the gene mutation, then any child will have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene. People with the faulty gene usually develop MODY before the age of 25, even if they are careful to maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly and stay at a healthy BMI.


Neonatal diabetes


Neonatal diabetes is a rare form of diabetes that develops in babies under the age of six months. It does not appear to be an autoimmune condition, where the body attacks the pancreas’ beta cells. So it is different from type 1 diabetes.

A single mutation in a gene causes neonatal diabetes. It can be transient or permanent and is treated with insulin or with oral sulfonylurea medication.


Steroid-induced diabetes


Corticosteroid drugs can increase blood glucose levels and increase your risk of developing diabetes. This is more common in people with other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as a family history of diabetes, obesity or previous gestational diabetes.  

Steroid-induced diabetes is more common in people who take steroids for a long time, which is why doctors try to stick to short courses of steroids if possible.

Other forms of diabetes include cystic fibrosis diabetes and the rare genetic disorders Wolfram Syndrome and Alström Syndrome.


To find out more about diabetes diagnosis, or to speak to one of our specialists at the London Diabetes Clinic about prospective treatment options, contact us today.



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Carol Willis

Carol Willis - Diabetes Clinic Facilitator

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