Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (sometimes called juvenile diabetes) is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, making it impossible for them to produce insulin. Insulin is an important hormone that moves sugar (glucose) from your blood into your cells, feeding the cells and giving you energy. People with type 1 diabetes can’t convert energy from food into energy for cells, so the body tries to get rid of the sugar other ways and patients show symptoms such as extreme tiredness and weakness, frequent urination and constant thirst. Type 1 is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults, but can be diagnosed at any age. Although it is a lifelong condition, type 1 diabetes can be successfully managed with insulin therapy and lifestyle changes. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this variation, and if you don’t have a close relative with this condition the likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes is less than 0.5%.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is categorized by a build-up of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream, caused by the body’s inability to use insulin appropriately. The main difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that in type 1 the pancreas does not produce insulin, whereas in type 2 the pancreas produces insulin but the body is resistant to using it (called “insulin resistance”). If the body’s insulin resistance is too strong, blood sugar levels will rise and – when tests show an average blood glucose of >125 mg/dL – a patient will receive the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The most common treatment is diet, exercise and oral medication, but some cases may also require insulin to keep blood sugars in control. Type 2 was previously considered a condition of middle age since that is when most people are diagnosed, but diagnoses among children and teens have been on the rise in recent years. This is the most common type of diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a variation of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy. The exact cause of gestational diabetes is not known, but we think it results from hormones produced by the placenta. While these hormones help the baby grow, they also cause insulin resistance in the mother. If the mother has too much trouble producing or using enough insulin, blood sugar levels will rise and she will likely receive the diagnosis of gestational diabetes. This most typically occurs around week 24 of the pregnancy. Thankfully, after the baby is born most women’s blood sugars return to normal levels. Gestational diabetes does, however, increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Up to 9.2% of expectant moms are affected by gestational diabetes, making it one of the most frequent health problems of pregnancy.

Late Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults

Late Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), sometimes called type 1.5 diabetes or Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, is an autoimmune disorder that shows characteristics of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. At onset patients appear to have type 2 diabetes, but over time (5-12 years) insulin production stops and patients’ bodies function more like those of type 1 diabetics. This disorder is distinguishable from common type 2 diabetes through quantification of islet cell antibodies, and may be differentiated from type 1 using HLA studies. While those with LADA do not typically require insulin at diagnosis, as their disease progresses they do become insulin-dependent. Current research suggests treatment of lifestyle interventions and insulin therapy be prescribed as soon as possible to those diagnosed with LADA.

Diabetes Prevalence Worldwide

Around the world, more than 415 million people live with diabetes. The map below shows the pervasiveness of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the adult (20-79 year old) population in seven global regions. North America & the Caribbean report the highest prevalence at 12.9%, while Africa reports the lowest at 3.2% (although this second number is likely much higher in reality given high rates of undiagnosed diabetes in the region). These percentages do not include the millions of undiagnosed cases, and are only expected rise in coming years.

Map of Diabetes Prevalence Worldwide

Text information sourced from American Diabetes Association pages and journal, and NHS.