Understanding the Different Types of Diabetes

Diabetes Tools

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. With diabetes, your body either can’t produce insulin or can’t use the insulin it produces properly. Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas, and its main job is regulating the amount of glucose in your blood. 

There are three major types of diabetes, each with different causes, but each type of diabetes shares the common problem of having too much glucose in the bloodstream.  Without treatment, the buildup of extra sugar in your bloodstream can damage your organs, blood vessels, and nerves. 

Diabetes currently affects 10.2% of the American population, and nearly 7.3 million Americans are unaware they have the disease. 

Different types of Diabetes

The four main types of diabetes are: type 1, type 2, gestational, and prediabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes often occurs from childhood. It’s an autoimmune reaction, which means your body attacks itself by mistake. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed. People with type 1 can’t regulate their blood sugar and have to take insulin everyday. Roughly 10 percent of people living with diabetes have type 1. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is typically developed later in life when your body is no longer responding to insulin the way it should. With type 2, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or your body can’t properly use the insulin it produces. 

Though type 2 diabetes is most commonly developed in adulthood, it can also occur in childhood. It can sometimes be managed through a healthy diet and lifestyle, although it may require medication and insulin therapy. Roughly 90% of people living with diabetes have type 2. 


Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and can disappear after giving birth. It usually occurs in the middle of pregnancy, typically between 24 and 28 weeks.

Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormone changes during pregnancy. Hormones can interfere with the way insulin works, resulting in the insulin not regulating your blood sugar levels the way it’s supposed to. 

Although gestational diabetes can disappear after childbirth, you do run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. 


Prediabetes is the type of diabetes before type 2. This is when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered type 2. Not everyone with prediabetes will develop type 2, although many will. 

Long-term complications associated with diabetes may begin during prediabetes. 

Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms may vary for everyone, but common symptoms can include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling of hands and feet
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Slow healing cuts and bruises
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy 

Type 1 diabetes symptoms: symptoms can develop quickly with type 1 diabetes. Additional symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections. 

Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes symptoms: symptoms of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes can sometimes go unnoticed. Contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect you could have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.

Gestational diabetes symptoms: symptoms of gestational diabetes can go unnoticed. You should be tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 48 weeks of your pregnancy. 

Risk Factors

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes: 

  • Family history of diabetes (parent or sibling)
  • Injury to the pancreas
  • Presence of autoantibodies
  • Physical stress (surgery or illness)

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes:

Your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes depend on a combination of risk factors including:

  • Being overweight
  • Family history of diabetes (parent or sibling)
  • Being 45 or older
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Previously having gestational diabetes 
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Not being physically active
  • are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

Risk factors for gestational diabetes:

  • Family history of diabetes (parent or sibling)
  • Being overweight before your pregnancy
  • Being over the age of 25

Living with diabetes

The first step of your diabetes treatment plan is finding out if you have diabetes. Anyone who has symptoms of diabetes should be tested for the disease. The three tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes are:

1. A1C test

2. Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test

3. Random Plasma Glucose (RPG) test

If you’re pregnant, your healthcare provider should test you for gestational diabetes using a glucose challenge test when you’re between 24 and 28 weeks along. 

There are many ways in which you can manage your diabetes and live a healthy life. If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to monitor your blood sugar and administer multiple daily insulin injections. If you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, you can manage your condition by eating a healthy diet, exercising often, and in some cases, taking medication.

To prevent long-term health issues and complications associated with diabetes, you may need to make some lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes may include regularly monitoring your blood pressure levels, regularly monitoring your cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet, and restricting tobacco use. 

The bottom line

It’s important to get tested immediately if you suspect you or a loved one has diabetes. Our lab offers the A1C test and we’re always available to answer any questions you may have regarding your diabetes and diabetes treatment. 

You can find more information on diabetes and living with diabetes through the American Diabetes Association.

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