Types of Diabetes

What are the Different Types of Diabetes?

Valerie M. Turner, MSN, RN, CDE

Diabetes Connections 4 Life

 The most common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

In type 1 diabetes little or no insulin is released by the pancreas.  Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.  Without insulin glucose, also known as sugar, continues to build up in the bloodstream.

People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to stay alive.  Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age.

Scientists don’t know exactly why the immune system attacks the pancreas.  However, genetics and the environment may also play a role in why a person gets type 1 diabetes.  Only 5 to 10 percent of all people with diabetes have type 1.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes is type 2, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases.  You develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood.  However, this type of diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people.

As type 2 diabetes develops, the pancreas is still producing insulin.  However, the body cells don’t respond as they should.  This is called insulin resistance.  When the body cells are resistant, it takes more and more insulin to move the glucose into the cells.  As a result, the pancreas begins to release more insulin.

Eventually the pancreas will not be able to keep up with the demand.  Insulin production begins to decline.  When there is no longer enough insulin released by the pancreas, the blood glucose rises too high.  Over the years the pancreas may stop making insulin altogether.

A person is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if they have the following risk factors:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Overweight or obese
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • History of gestational diabetes or a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • Race/ethnicity background
    • African American
    • Asian American
    • Hispanic/Latino
    • Native American
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

 Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in the last three months of pregnancy.  In this type of diabetes, the hormones of pregnancy cause insulin resistance. If the woman’s pancreas cannot supply enough insulin to overcome this resistance, the blood glucose levels rise to high.  High glucose levels can result in in a very large baby and other birth complications.

Most of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born.  Women who have gestational diabetes, have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.  However, they may be able to lower this risk by maintaining a reasonable weight and staying physically active.  Sometimes diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy is actually type 2 diabetes.


During prediabetes, the blood glucose level is above normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.  The pancreas is still producing insulin, but the body cells do not respond as they should.  This is called insulin resistance.  When the body is resistant, it takes more insulin to move glucose (sugar) into the cells.  The pancreas begins to release a higher than normal amount of insulin.  This extra insulin production keeps the blood glucose normal or just above normal.  Prediabetes can put people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Fortunately, we now know that people with prediabetes can do something to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.  Studies show that a person can lower their risk by losing 5% to 7% of their body weight.  For a person who weighs 200 pounds, that amounts to about a 10 – 14 pound weight loss.  In one study, this amount of weight loss lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Other Types of Diabetes

Less common types of diabetes include maturity-onset diabetes of the young or latent autoimmune diabetes.  These types of diabetes are cause by specific genetic conditions or from surgery, medications, injections, pancreatic disease, or other illnesses.  Other types of diabetes, accounts for 1% – 5% of all diagnosed cases.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basics About Diabetes:  What are the Types of Diabetes? https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html  Last updated March 31, 2015.  Accessed June 6, 2017