Type 1 diabetes is referred to as an immune-mediated or autoimmune disease. It was once called juvenile diabetes, because the onset of the disease typically occurs in the childhood or adolescent years. However, adults can also develop it. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes must take injections of insulin or use an insulin pump to stay alive.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the islet cells in the pancreas are damaged and no longer produce insulin. This happens when the immune system in the body, for reasons not clearly understood, attacks its own cells.
Approximately 5-10 percent of all people with diabetes in the U.S. have Type 1. Risk factors for this disease include:
Type 2 diabetes is referred to as adult-onset diabetes. This hereditary disorder occurs when the production of insulin isn’t sufficient to overcome a difficulty the body has in properly using insulin. This difficulty is called insulin resistance.
Type 2 diabetes is treated with diet, exercise and, if necessary, medications. It accounts for 90-95 percent of all cases of diabetes and the incidence is rising rapidly, even in children.
People with Type 2 diabetes represent roughly 90-95 percent of all cases of diabetes in the U.S. Risk factors for this disease include:
Note: Some people experience no symptoms with Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes can occur in women during pregnancy, usually after the 20th week. The condition is caused by pregnancy hormones that lead to insulin resistance. When the body’s insulin production isn’t sufficient to overcome the resistance, glucose levels rise.
The condition poses risks to the developing fetus as the mother’s blood, with its high levels of glucose and insulin, circulates throughout its system. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes can be overweight—over nine pounds—because the mother’s high blood glucose and insulin levels cause them to gain weight. The extra weight can put the baby at risk for obesity and for developing diabetes later in life. In addition, because the baby’s body has become accustomed to extra blood glucose and insulin, its blood sugar can drop too low after birth.
Treatment for women with gestational diabetes is aimed toward keeping blood sugar levels at the levels a pregnant woman would have who doesn’t have gestational diabetes. To accomplish this goal, a registered dietitian will work with you to develop a meal plan suited to your special needs. Your doctor may also recommend that you check your blood sugar levels every day and may prescribe insulin. (Unlike many drugs, insulin doesn’t cross the placental barrier to your baby.)
In the majority of cases, gestational diabetes disappears when the woman’s pregnancy ends. But as many as 40 percent of these women will eventually develop type 2 diabetes. In some cases, the pregnancy unveils underlying diabetes that the woman wasn’t aware of.
An estimated 2-5 percent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
Diabetes may also be related to other factors such as injury to or disease of the pancreas, medications (such as steroids), surgery, infections and malnutrition.
If you have questions or concerns about diabetes symptoms or risk factors, schedule an appointment with a diabetes specialist.