According to most health professionals, the three major types of diabetes are:
Type-1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes)
Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This type of diabetes, also known as juvenile-onset diabetes, accounts for 10-15% of all people with the disease. It can appear at any age, although commonly under 40, and is triggered by environmental factors such as viruses, diet or chemicals in people genetically-predisposed.
People with type-1 diabetes must inject themselves with insulin several times a day and follow a careful diet and exercise plan.
Type-2 diabetes (previously known as non-insulin dependent diabetes)
Type-2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 85-90% of all people with the disease. This type of diabetes, also known as late-onset diabetes, is characterized by insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency.
The disease is strongly genetic in origin, but lifestyle factors such as excess weight, inactivity, high blood pressure and poor diet are major risk factors for its development. Symptoms may not show for many years and, by the time they appear, significant problems may have developed. People with type-2 diabetes are twice as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease. Type-2 diabetes may be treated by dietary changes, exercise and/or tablets. Insulin injections may later be required.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)
GDM, or carbohydrate intolerance, is first diagnosed during pregnancy through an oral glucose tolerance test. Risk factors for GDM include a family history of diabetes, increasing maternal age, obesity and being a member of a community or ethnic group with a high risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
While the carbohydrate intolerance usually returns to normal after the birth, the mother has a significant risk of developing permanent diabetes, while the baby is more likely to develop obesity and impaired glucose tolerance and/or diabetes later in life. Self-care and dietary changes are essential in treatment.