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Diabetes and its types - Part II

In our previous blog, we gave you an insight into the different types of diabetes and highlighted some of the repercussions. In today’s blog, we shall deep dive into the different types of diabetes and the various health complications associated with it.  

Let's quickly give you a brief on the two major and prominent types of diabetes: 

  • Type 1 Diabetes: 5-10% of diabetics are classified as type 1. Type 1 diabetes is a condition, wherein the body is unable to produce insulin on its own. This type is more often diagnosed during childhood or teenage than as an adult. 

  • Type 2 Diabetes: Almost 90-95% of diabetics are type 2 and the majority of them are adults. This type occurs when your body can't metabolize insulin properly. Therefore, type 2  is progressive, meaning it often gets worse over time if not treated.

  • Gestational Diabetes: Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and can lead to high blood sugar levels that can be dangerous for both the mother’s health and the baby's. This condition often resolves after the pregnancy ends, but women who have had gestational diabetes are at a much higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes later on. 

The difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

The differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes mainly lie in the risk factors and the causes leading to both the conditions. 

Risk factors :

Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Family history: People with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes have a much higher risk of developing it themselves.

  • Age: Type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, but it’s very common among children and adolescents.

  • Genetics: The presence of certain genes points to an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes sooner or later.

For Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Associated Medical Conditions: Having prediabetes, or slightly elevated blood sugar levels is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. 

  • Excess weight: Overweight or obese people are at a higher risk of developing this condition.

  • Lack of active lifestyle: Are physically inactive or lead a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Complications during pregnancy: If a female has ever had gestational diabetes, which is diabetes during pregnancy or given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, her risk of contracting type 2 diabetes is severely increased. 

  • Genetics: Those having an immediate family member with type 2 diabetes are also at a risk of developing the same condition.

  • PCOS: Research has shown that females with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are also at a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


Both these types, even though resulting in the same condition, do have a different cause. In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells for foreign invaders. The immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. In such a condition, the body is unable to produce insulin.

However, in type 2 diabetes, the human body develops a severe insulin resistance and hence is unable to process insulin effectively. It is an extremely common condition. Infact, type 2 is more common than type 1 or gestational diabetes. 

“34.2 million people in the United States are living with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes in 2018. That’s about 1 in 10 people. Ninety to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2.”
            - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020 National Diabetes Statistics)

Health Complications caused by type 2 diabetes:

There are certain differences between these two based on a host of health complications caused by type 2 diabetes.

  • Heart Disease : People with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In general, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. People who live with type 2 diabetes are at even greater risk of developing heart disease than people who don’t have the condition. Paying close attention to the main risk factors for heart disease, and addressing them, may help decrease the risk. 

  • Kidney Disease: Kidney disease is yet another complication that can affect people with type 2 diabetes. This is because of the connection between blood sugar and the kidneys. If the blood glucose levels are too high, the kidneys struggle to filter blood, causing the blood vessels within the kidneys to be damaged. Symptoms of kidney disease include fluid buildup, weakness, nausea, loss of sleep, and trouble concentrating. These symptoms often do not occur until kidney function is significantly impaired, which makes kidney disease a lot difficult to detect. Managing your blood sugar levels is a key part of lowering your risk of kidney disease.
  • Eye Damage: People with diabetes have a much higher risk of developing eye problems like glaucoma and cataract. Another complication that can affect the eyes in a diabetic is called retinopathy. This condition occurs when high levels of sugar in the blood cause damage to the retina’s blood vessels. If left untreated, it can lead to complete loss of vision.

  • Foot Problems: Type 2 diabetes can also increase your risk of a number of complications that affect the feet. Most diabetes-related foot issues are caused by nerve damage, often referred to as neuropathy. Neuropathy causes unpleasant sensations in the feet, such as tingling, burning, and stinging. Neuropathy can also decrease your ability to feel sensations like pain, heat, and cold. In turn, this raises a person’s risk of injuries that can lead to infection. In advanced cases, neuropathy may even change the shape of the feet and toes, requiring special shoes or insoles.

Health complications caused by type 1 diabetes:

Apart from a few similar complications caused by type 2 diabetes, such as neuropathy, retinopathy, etc, type 1 diabetes also caused a host of other health complications such as:

  • Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia refers to low blood sugar. It can be caused by:
    • Taking too much insulin for the amount of food that was eaten.
    • Taking too much insulin to treat "fasting" blood sugar.
    • Skipping a meal or eating a smaller meal without lowering the insulin dose.
    • Exercising harder or longer than normal without lowering the insulin dose
  • Hyperglycemia: Hyperglycemia refers to high blood sugar. It happens when a person does not have enough insulin to remove the glucose in the body. It can be caused by:
    • Taking too little insulin for the food that was eaten.
    • Eating without taking any insulin.
    • Eating a larger meal without adjusting the insulin dose.
    • Exercising more or less than planned without adjusting the insulin dose.
    • Stress from being sick or life events (insulin may need to be adjusted).
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis: People with type 1 diabetes can often develop ketoacidosis. This refers to a condition wherein sugar cannot get into cells to make energy when the body is not getting enough insulin. In this condition, the body starts breaking down stored fat for energy. The by-products of fat breakdown are called ketone bodies. These are the acids that build up in the blood that can cause ketoacidosis. Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a very dangerous condition, since insulin is necessary to break down glucose as a source of energy, the body then turns to body fat as a fuel source, leading to an excessive and dangerous buildup of byproducts called ‘ketones’ making the blood very acidic.If left unchecked, however, diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to a diabetic coma and even death.
  • Heart diseases and stroke: Diabetes can also cause cholesterol levels to rise. This leads to narrow, clogged arteries that make it hard for the blood to carry oxygen to the body. This can lead to heart diseases and in some cases, stroke.

Is diabetes curable?

As such, there’s no cure for diabetes. However, people can manage it and in some cases even reverse it depending on its type. 

Type 1 diabetes doesn't have a cure. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, so it must be regularly injected into the body. However, monitoring blood sugar testing is also an essential part of managing type 1 diabetes, because levels can go up and down quickly.

Type 2 diabetes can also be managed and in certain cases, even reversed with diet and exercise alone, but many people need extra support. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, the doctor may prescribe medications that help your body use insulin more effectively.

Monitoring your blood sugar is an essential part of type 2 diabetes management too. Your doctor may even recommend testing your blood sugar occasionally or at times, frequently. If your blood sugar levels are high, your doctor may recommend insulin injections