Types of Diabetes
If your doctor recently diagnosed you with diabetes, you’re one of nearly 50 million people in India. Technically, this disease is known as “diabetes mellitus” — diabetes from the Greek for siphon, to describe the excessive thirst and urination characteristic of this condition, and mellitus from the Latin for honey; diabetic urine is filled with sugar and is sweet. Physicians and medical books use the term diabetes mellitus, but commonly, this disease is simply called diabetes.
There are many types of diabetes, but the two of them are most common:
All are a little different. But everyone with diabetes has one thing in common: Little or noability to move sugar — or glucose — out of the blood into the cells, where it becomes the body’s primary fuel. Everyone has glucose in their blood, whether or not they have diabetes. This glucose comes from food. When we eat, the digestive process breaks down food into glucose, which is absorbed into the blood in the small intestine.
People who don’t have diabetes rely on insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, to move glucose from the blood into the body’s billions of cells. But people who have diabetes either don’t produce insulin or can’t efficiently use the insulin they produce. Without insulin, they can’t move glucose into their cells. Glucose accumulates in the blood — a condition called hyperglycemia (“hyper” = too much, “glycemia” = glucose in the blood) — and over time, can cause very serious health problems. Scientists don’t know exactly what causes diabetes, but it appears to result from a combination of genetics and environmental factors, including viral infections, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyle. Currently, diabetes can’t be cured, but the good news is that the disease can be managed. People with diabetes can live fulfilling, healthy lives.
People with type 1 diabetes (also called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or IDDM) don’t produce insulin and need regular shots of it to keep their blood glucose levels normal. Type 1 diabetes was once called juvenile-onset diabetes, but that name has been dropped because type 1 diabetes also strikes young and older adults alike. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% to 10% of those who have the disease.
A family history of the disease increases risk.
Diabetes happens in people of every race, but it’s most common among whites.
Half of those diagnosed with type 1 are under 20. Being age 20 or younger increases your risk.
What causes it?
Most children of parents with diabetes do not develop the disease. However, scientists have long suspected that heredity plays a role because type 1 diabetes tends to run in families. Researchers have identified several genes that appear to increase risk of type 1 diabetes. But they haven’t yet found a single gene that causes the disease.
Type 1 diabetes has many hallmarks of an auto-immune condition. In auto-immune diseases, the immune system, which protects you from disease by killing invading germs, mistakes the body’s own cells for germs and destroys them. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the immune system kills the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin (beta cells).
Type 1 diabetes often strikes shortly after a viral infection, and doctors sometimes notice a sharp jump in type 1 diabetes diagnoses after viral epidemics.
Candidates include those that cause mumps, German measles, and a close relative of the virus that causes polio.
Approximately 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 disease (also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or NIDDM). Those with type 2 produce insulin, but the cells in their bodies are “insulin resistant” — they don’t respond properly to the hormone, so glucose accumulates in their blood. Some people with type 2 diabetes must inject insulin, but most can control the disease through a combination of weight loss, exercise, a prescription oral diabetes medication, and tight control.