Diabetes Home > Diabetes Types

The three main types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, especially in people over the age of 40. The last of the diabetes types is gestational diabetes, which develops only during pregnancy.

An Overview of the Types of Diabetes

The three main diabetes types are:
 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease results when the body's system for fighting infection (the immune system) turns against a part of the body. In diabetes, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day in order to live.
 
At present, scientists do not know exactly what causes the body's immune system to attack the beta cells, but they believe that autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors, possibly viruses, are involved. This diabetes type accounts for about 5 percent to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States. It develops most often in children and young adults, but can appear at any age.
 
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period, although beta cell destruction can begin years earlier. Type 1 diabetes symptoms include:
 
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Constant hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme fatigue.
     
If not diagnosed and given insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening diabetic coma (also known as diabetic ketoacidosis).
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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