Types of Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Preventions

Diabetes is a group of diseases in which the body either doesn’t produce enough or any insulin, does not properly use the insulin that is produced, or a combination of both.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Diabetes is a group of diseases in which the body either doesn't produce enough or any insulin,  does not properly use the insulin that is produced, or a combination of both. The three main types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes

Causes Of Diabetes

Causes Of Type 1 Diabetes 

Type 1 diabetes  is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin and is mainly due to genetic issue. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. It happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the beta cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. The damage is permanent. Type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence, but it can develop in adults also.

Causes Of Type 2 Diabetes 

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease which is also known as insulin resistance or non insulin-dependent diabetes, which affects the metabolism of your body in a way that increases the sugar (glucose) level. Type 2 diabetes usually affects the adults. The risk raises with age.

Causes Of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is due to insulin blocking hormones produced during pregnancy. This type of diabetes occurs  without a previous history of diabetes .
Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy.

Causes Other Types Of Diabetes

Prediabetes indicates a condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Other forms of diabetes include congenital diabetes, which is due to genetic defects of insulin secretion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, steroid diabetes induced by high doses of glucocorticoids, and several forms of monogenic diabetes.

Prevention of Diabetes

  • Prevention and treatment of diabetes involve maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, a normal body weight, and avoiding use of tobacco.
  • Control of blood pressure and maintaining proper foot care are important for people with the disease. Type 1 diabetes must be managed with insulin injections.
  • Type 2 diabetes may be treated with medications with or without insulin. Insulin and some oral medications can cause low blood sugar. 
  • Weight loss surgery in those with obesity is sometimes an effective measure in those with type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the birth of the baby.

Sign and Symptoms of Diabetes

Usual signs and symptoms of untreated diabetes are weight loss, increased urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. Symptoms of diabetes may develop rapidly (weeks or months) in type 1 diabetes, while they usually develop much more slowly  in type 2 diabetes.

In addition to the known ones above, other signs and symptoms of diabetes include blurry vision, headache, fatigue, slow healing of cuts, and itchy skin. Prolonged high blood glucose can cause glucose absorption in the lens of the eye, which leads to changes in its shape, resulting in vision changes. A number of skin rashes that can occur in diabetes are collectively known as diabetic dermadromes.

Complications of Diabetes

All forms of diabetes increase the risk of long-term complications. These typically develop after many years may be 10-20years. Various complications of diabetes are:

  • The major long-term complications of diabetes relate to damage to blood vessels. Diabetes doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease. Other "macrovascular" diseases are stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
  • The primary complications of diabetes due to damage in small blood vessels include damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. 
  • Damage to the eyes, known as diabetic retinopathy, is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eye, and an result in gradual vision loss and blindness.
  • Damage to the kidneys, known as diabetic nephropathy, can lead to tissue scarring, urine protein loss, and eventually chronic kidney disease, sometimes requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation.
  • Damage to the nerves of the body, known as diabetic neuropathy, is the most common complication of diabetes.
  • The symptoms can include numbness, tingling, pain, and altered pain sensation, which can lead to damage to the skin. 
  • Diabetes-related foot problems (such as diabetic foot ulcers) may occur, and can be difficult to treat, occasionally requiring amputation. Additionally, proximal diabetic neuropathy causes painful muscle atrophy and weakness.
  • There is a link between cognitive deficit and diabetes. Being diabetic, especially when on insulin, there is a high risk of cognitive deficit in older people.
  • High blood sugar levels during pregnancy can harm mother and child, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, miscarriage or stillbirth, birth defects.

Treatment and Prevention of Diabetes

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes. It requires lifelong disease management. But with consistent monitoring and adherence to treatment, you may be able to avoid some of the more serious complications of diabetes.

If you work closely with your doctor and make good lifestyle choices, type 2 diabetes can often be successfully managed. These include avoid smoking, lowering elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, high blood pressure, and do regular exercise. Specialized footwear is widely used to reduce the risk of ulceration, or re-ulceration, in at-risk diabetic feet. 

Medications used to treat diabetes

Medications used to treat diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels. There are a number of different classes of anti-diabetic medications. Some are oral, such as metformin, while others are only available by injection such as GLP-1 agonists. Type 1 diabetes can only be treated with insulin.

Metformin is generally recommended as a first line treatment for type 2 diabetes. It works by decreasing the liver's production of glucose.Several other groups of drugs, mostly given by mouth, may also decrease blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. These include agents that increase insulin release, agents that decrease absorption of sugar from the intestines, and agents that make the body more sensitive to insulin. When insulin is used in type 2 diabetes, a long-acting formulation is usually added initially, while continuing oral medications. Doses of insulin are then increased to effect.

If you have gestational diabetes, chances are it will resolve after your baby is born though you do have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Surgery to Treat Diabetes

A pancreas transplant is occasionally considered for people with type 1 diabetes who have severe complications of their disease, including end stage kidney disease requiring kidney transplantation.

Weight loss surgery in those with obesity and type two diabetes is often an effective measure. Many are able to maintain normal blood sugar levels with little or no medications following surgery.

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