Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce their own insulin and must take insulin daily—via injections or through a pump—to survive. Insulin doses are timed to correspond with food intake. This category used to be called "juvenile" diabetes because it’s most often diagnosed before age 30; however, it can occur at any age, even in the elderly.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes—by far the more common kind, accounting for nine out of ten American cases—usually begins as a person’s cells become "insulin resistant," or less able to process insulin’s signals. As long as the body can make enough insulin to overcome the resistance, blood-glucose levels remain normal. Eventually, however, the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, and the problem becomes a deficiency in insulin. Even though insulin levels may still be higher than normal, the amount just isn’t enough to keep blood-glucose levels within a normal range. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely it is that insufficient insulin is the cause of high blood-glucose levels. When type 2 diabetes is first diagnosed, many people can control their glucose by making and maintaining changes in their eating and physical activity. But diabetes is a progressive disease; over time, lifestyle changes need to be combined with medications, such as diabetes pills—and, eventually for many, insulin. When some people with diabetes reach this point, they may blame themselves, or feel as if they’ve "failed." In fact, diabetes progression isn’t anyone’s fault, but rather the result of inheriting beta cells that fail over time. To keep the beta cells working longer, it’s important to keep blood-glucose levels as normal as possible by whatever means necessary. Eating a healthy diet helps.