Diabetes is a disease where there is too much sugar in your blood, thus complicating how your body will use the blood sugar (also referred to as “blood glucose”). There are four types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes. Both pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes are preventable and sometimes reversible, unlike Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, which are chronic types of diabetes.
Symptoms may vary depending on the type of diabetes one has, and may include increased hunger, excessive thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, unexpected weight loss, various infections, blurred vision or sores that are slow to heal. Pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes may not show any symptoms.
Types of Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes can develop at any age; it most commonly appears during the childhood and teenage years. It occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys the insulin your body produces to allow sugar into your cells. This greatly reduces your insulin levels causing your blood sugar to build up in your blood stream. While the exact cause for Type 1 diabetes is still unknown, it is likely that family history may be a factor. This risk increases if a parent and/or sibling also has Type 1 diabetes.
- Pre-diabetes is a state of diabetes that occurs when a person’s blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes. It is important to seek treatment for pre-diabetes because the development of Type 2 diabetes can be avoided if the proper steps are taken to improve your health. However, if left untreated, pre-diabetes can develop into Type 2 diabetes within 10 years. The exact cause of pre-diabetes is unknown, but some contributing factors include: weight, age, ethnicity, family history and inactivity.
- Type 2 diabetes is often preventable and can occur at any age. It occurs when your cells begin rejecting the insulin and your liver is unable to produce enough insulin to overcome this problem. This will cause the blood sugar to build up in your bloodstream. It is still undetermined why Type 2 diabetes develops in some and not others, but there are some common risk factors that contribute, including: family history, weight, age, ethnicity, inactivity and gestational diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes takes place during pregnancy. The hormones produced by your placenta can sometimes cause your cells to reject the insulin produced by your body, and can worsen as the pregnancy continues. For most, the pancreas counteracts by producing more insulin to overcome the rejection, but for some it’s not enough. While any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, women 25 and older are usually at a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes, as well as black, Hispanic, Asian or American Indian women. Other contributing factors include being overweight, having pre-diabetes or having a family history of diabetes.
Treatment of diabetes will depend on the type of diabetes one has, and can vary from monitoring your blood sugar level and using insulin or oral medications to having a pancreas implant.
- Lifestyle Changes: No matter what type of diabetes one has, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, exercising and sustaining a healthy weight in order to properly manage your diabetes.
- Glucose Monitoring: Monitoring your blood sugar and having insulin therapy will be the primary course of treatment for those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Your physician will determine how often you should check and record your blood sugar level. By monitoring this, you are able to ensure your blood sugar stays within your range set by your doctor.
- Medications: Insulin, for example, is absolutely necessary for Type 1 diabetics. Insulin is often injected with a fine syringe needle or insulin pen. For some, an insulin pump may also be used to automatically dispense a pre-programmed dose of insulin based on your sugar level. For others, oral medications are used to encourage the pancreas to increase insulin production or to inhibit the liver from releasing glucose.
- Transplant: For some with Type 1 diabetes, a pancreas implant may be necessary. While this will eliminate the need for insulin therapy, it is a very risky procedure that isn’t always successful. It will also require a lifetime of immune-suppressing medication to avoid organ rejection.