Types of Diabetes

There are 3 types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.  About 90% of Canadians living with diabetes have type 2 diabetes and only 5-10% have type 1 diabetes.  Read below to find out more about them and if you are still unsure of which diabetes you have, speak to your physician.

Type 1 diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in younger children and is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes. However, it can also occur later on in life. This is called LADA, latent autoimmune diabetes in adults.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces no insulin whatsoever and as a result, insulin must be given through injections or a pump to keep the blood sugars stable. No oral medicines are approved for use in type 1 diabetes. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes and the risk factors are also unknown.

Type 2 diabetes:

In type 2 diabetes, there are 2 main issues that cause the blood sugars to rise. There is an imbalance between pancreas’s ability to produce insulin vs. the body’s demand for insulin i.e. the pancreas does not produce enough insulin for the body’s needs. In type 2 diabetes, the body is not able to use the insulin properly because of excess body fat. It is usually diagnosed later on in life and is a progressive condition, which means that over time, the pancreas produces less and less insulin. Diet, exercise, oral pills as well as insulin can be used to keep blood sugars in target, depending on each person’s individual needs.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include age (>40 years), family history of type 2 diabetes, being overweight, being from a high risk ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, Aboriginal and South Asian) or previously having gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes:

This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy as the body is not able to produce enough insulin for the mother and the baby. In Canada, women are checked to see if they have gestational diabetes between 22-30 weeks of pregnancy, or sometimes even earlier if they are considered to be at higher risk.

During this time, oral medications are not used because of potential harm to baby. Instead, a healthy diet combined with exercise and if needed, insulin injections, are used to keep the blood sugars in target.

After the delivery of the baby, gestational diabetes usually goes away. However, these women have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on in life.