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The Different Types of Diabetes You Must Know About

types of diabetes

Story at-a-glance -

  • There are two primary diabetes types: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • Apart from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, there are other lesser known forms of this disease

There are two primary diabetes types: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. If a patient has Type 1 diabetes, this means that the immune system attacks and destroys beta cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin. Although Type 1 diabetes can manifest at any age, it's usually diagnosed in children and young adults.1

On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes develops when the body does not make or use insulin well. Considered the most common type of diabetes, patients with Type 2 diabetes have a condition wherein their body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and gradually loses the ability to produce sufficient insulin in the pancreas.2,3

However, apart from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, there are other lesser known forms of this disease. These particular types of diabetes can develop because of various causes and risk factors.

Gestational Diabetes: Why Does It Occur?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 9.2 percent of pregnant women are at risk of developing gestational diabetes. This happens when pregnancy hormones interfere with the way insulin works in the mother's body. This intervention can lead to elevated blood glucose levels during the pregnancy, and eventually cause gestational diabetes.4

The good news is, most cases of gestational diabetes may go away after the baby is born. However, it's said that women who had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. In fact, some diabetes cases diagnosed during a pregnancy may already be Type 2 diabetes.5

Can Certain Genes Lead to Diabetes?

Apart from the aforementioned types of diabetes, there are other types of diabetes that a patient can be diagnosed with. To begin with, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes tend to be polygenic, meaning the risk of having these conditions is dependent on or related to multiple genes.

However, some rare forms of diabetes can be monogenic and result from mutations in a single gene. Most cases of monogenic diabetes involve an inherited gene mutation, while remaining cases show that the gene mutation develops spontaneously.

Usually, mutations in monogenic diabetes involve a reduction in the body's ability to produce insulin. Monogenic diabetes cases usually account for around 1 to 5 percent of all diabetes cases in young people. The two main forms of monogenic diabetes are:6

Neonatal diabetes mellitus (NDM) or neonatal diabetes — This disease manifests in newborns and young infants. NDM is a rare condition happening in only 1 in 100,000 to 500,000 live births, and typically arises in the first six months of life.

Infants with NDM fail to produce enough insulin, causing their blood glucose levels to increase. NDM may be mistaken for Type 1 diabetes, but the latter tends to occur after  the first six months.

Half of NDM patients have a life-long condition called permanent neonatal diabetes, while the others tend to have transient neonatal diabetes mellitus (TNDM), wherein the disease disappears during infancy but can reappear later in life.

Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) — More common than NDM, MODY tends to develop in children or adolescents, but the disease is usually mild and may not be detected until adulthood.

Numerous gene mutations are linked to MODY, and these mutations tend to limit the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. Family members of people with MODY tend to have a higher risk for this disease as well.

This limitation results in high blood glucose levels characteristic of diabetes patients. In time, this can result in damage to body tissues, such as the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.

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Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults (LADA)

Adults may also experience a type of diabetes called Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults (LADA). It usually appears in adults 30 to 50 years old. People with LADA have a disease where antibodies cause a slow and progressive destruction of the pancreas' beta cells responsible for insulin production. This destruction raises the risk for a rapid progression to insulin dependence.7

Sometimes, LADA is referred to as Type 1.5 diabetes. While this isn’t an official term, it highlights the fact that this disease shares characteristics similar to Type 1 and 2 diabetes.

LADA’s similarity with Type 1 diabetes is its nature as an autoimmune disease, which involves the body’s immune system attacking and killing off insulin-producing cells. However, LADA can also be mistaken for Type 2 diabetes since it develops over a longer period of time than Type 1 diabetes.8

What Does It Mean if You Have Secondary Diabetes?

Did you know that diabetes can also affect people suffering from certain diseases? Secondary diabetes refers to diabetes that occurs as a consequence of other medical conditions such as:9,10

  • Pancreatic diseases such as (cystic fibrosis, cancer, pancreatitis and pancreatectomy)
  • Endocrine diseases such as Cushing syndrome, acromegaly and hyperthyroid, etc.)
  • Genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome, Friedreich ataxia and Turner syndrome
  • Viral infections such as congenial rubella and cytomegalovirus

You can also get secondary diabetes from medications like corticosteroids, beta-blockers and thiazide diuretics.11

It’s important to note that methods of controlling blood glucose levels can vary among patients, since secondary diabetes can develop under different medical conditions. Also, while secondary diabetes is often permanent, there are some forms of secondary diabetes, for example, that caused by hemochromatosis or glucagonoma, that can be reversed or eradicated if treated early enough.12

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