Diabetes is a biological disorder in which a person’s blood sugar (glucose) levels aren’t been regulated as they should be. Glucose is our bodies’ main energy source, and our brain and nervous system rely completely on glucose to function. Our bodies’ natural blood sugar regulator is the pancreas, which carries out the task by producing insulin which ushers glucose into the needed parts of the body, such as the brain, muscles, and other organs. In the three different kinds of diabetes, this task isn’t being carried out properly, and we’ll examine each kind of diabetes, explain why this is so, and also expose the risks each form of diabetes presents.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes used to be known as ‘Juvenile Diabetes’ because of its tendency to strike a person in their childhood up to their early adulthood. It is also sometimes known as ‘Insulin Dependant Diabetes’, as a person with this condition is reliant upon insulin injections to survive.

It is the most serious form of diabetes and the least common. The cause for Type 1 Diabetes is usually pancreatic failure due to what is known as an ‘autoimmune’ malfunction. Autoimmunity is where our immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells or tissues within the body much in the same way as it would a viral infection. Although the exact reasons for this malfunction aren’t known, it does occur. In the case of Type 1 Diabetes, it is the insulin producing pancreatic cells which have incurred the wrath of the immune system, which attack until the pancreas is left permanently damaged, and incapable of producing any insulin, or hardly any insulin.

As a person with Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t produce any insulin, their quota of insulin they inject is absolute. In other words, should their blood sugar levels rise, their pancreas is absolutely incapable of making any insulin to compensate for the shortfall. This can mean a person can find themselves becoming hyperglycaemic in a very short space of time. Hyperglycaemia is an excess of blood sugar, and the immediate symptoms can be increased thirst, hunger and tiredness as well as increased urination, blurred vision, nausea and possibly even vomiting. Other symptoms of hyperglycaemia which can develop are irritation of the genitals and yeast infections.

Another risk for those who have Type 1 Diabetes is the possibility of becoming the opposite of hyperglycaemic, which is hypoglycaemic. This is where there is a shortage of blood sugar, and the symptoms can be tiredness, confusion, dizziness, anxiety, and fever-like symptoms. Hyperglycaemia takes hold very quickly, and if the blood sugar isn’t raised quickly, a person can end up unconscious, in a coma or even die in a very short space of time.

To counter these two extremes, a person with Type 1 Diabetes is usually advised to carry with them an emergency kit containing insulin injections and glucose injections or another ready-supply of glucose such as Lucozade energy sweets, which upon consumption raise blood sugar levels within minutes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes used to be known as ‘Adult Onset Diabetes’, as when the term was given, it was thought only adults developed this form of diabetes. This has proven to be false as a soaring number of children throughout the world now develop this type of diabetes each year. Modern day living where too much bad food is consumed, not enough exercise is taken and childhood obesity is largely to blame for this.

The prime cause for Type 2 Diabetes isn’t the failure of the pancreas, but more due to obesity and poor diets and unhealthy lifestyles. When a person overloads their body with sugar, as many obese people have done for years, this means persistent blood sugar levels, and the insulin and pancreas can struggle to deal with the sugar. The insulin ushers the sugar into the muscles, but the muscles don’t burn the glucose off because no exercise is taken. The result is an accumulation of blood sugar for prolonged periods of time. This can lead to a condition called ‘Insulin Resistance’, which is the prime cause of Type 2 Diabetes. When a person becomes insulin resistant, their muscles and other would-be outlets for the glucose begin to resist entry to the insulin, therefore the glucose isn’t delivered. This, over a period of time, results in a person experiencing symptoms of hyperglycaemia. A person with Type 2 Diabetes usually doesn’t have to take medication, but is advised to take more exercise and stick to a healthy diet to help to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Most people who adhere to this advice can live their lives normally without medication or symptoms affecting them. In some cases of Type 2 Diabetes, a medication may be prescribed.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes which affects roughly 2-3% of women during pregnancy, and usually alleviates soon after. This can be an extremely tricky form of diabetes to spot, as many symptoms are inline with those of a regular pregnancy, such as tiredness, blurred vision, increased appetite and thirst and increased urination.

It is, however, a very serious form of diabetes which if not picked up on can have severely damaging effects upon your baby, which may leave the baby with stillborn or dead soon after birth. This is a terrible consequence to pay for any person, so vigilance is imperative. If in doubt, you must consult you G.P. as soon as possible so you can seek advice and get any necessary medication. Gestational diabetes may also leave a child and mother with higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes further down the line, as well as a heightened risk of been an obese adult for the child.

Detailed information about diabetes symptoms is available at www.diabetes-symptoms.org.uk

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12 Mar 2007

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