Types of Diabetes
Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin.
To better understand diabetes, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy (a process called metabolism). Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, the cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of your food is broken down into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose provides the energy your body needs for daily activities.
The blood vessels and blood are the highways that transport sugar from where it is either taken in (the stomach) or manufactured (in the liver) to the cells where it is used (muscles) or where it is stored (fat). Sugar cannot go into the cells by itself. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood, which serves as the helper, or the "key," that lets sugar into the cells for use as energy.
When sugar leaves the bloodstream and enters the cells, the blood sugar level is lowered. Without insulin, or the "key," sugar cannot get into the body's cells for use as energy. This causes sugar to rise. Too much sugar in the blood is called "hyperglycemia" (high blood sugar) or diabetes.
Two main types of diabetes
Type I diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) of the pancreas are damaged. People with Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin, so sugar cannot get into the body's cells for use as energy. This causes blood sugar levels to rise. People with Type 1 diabetes MUST use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.
The damage to the insulin-producing cells in Type 1 diabetes occurs over a period of years. However, the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes might occur over a period of days to weeks. Type 1 is the most common form of diabetes in people younger than 20 years old, but it can occur at any age.
Type II diabetes
People with Type 2 diabetes produce insulin. However, there is either not enough insulin or it doesn't work properly in the body. When there is not enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, sugar cannot get into the body's cells for use as energy. This causes blood sugar to rise. Type 2 diabetes is most common in people over age 45 who are overweight. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can manage it by controlling their weight, watching their diet, and exercising regularly. Others might also need to take an oral medicine and/or insulin injections.
Other types of diabetes
Specific types of diabetes might result from pregnancy ( gestational diabetes), surgery, use of certain medicines, various illnesses, and other specific causes.