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Types of diabetes

Diabetes is a complicated condition which can take many different forms. In addition to the more common types of diabetes - type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes, there are a range of other types of diabetes, which are just as important.

About 2% of people have these other types of diabetes. These include different types of monogenic diabetes, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, and diabetes caused by rare syndromes. Certain medications such as steroids and antipsychotics could lead to other types of diabetes, as well as surgery or hormonal imbalances. Unfortunately, many of these people are misdiagnosed leading to delays in getting the right treatment.

We’re proud of the research we have supported to ensure better diagnosis and treatments for all types of diabetes, and it’s taught us a lot about the condition. You can find out more information on the different types of diabetes below:

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is where your blood glucose (sugar) level is too high because your body can’t make a hormone called insulin

This happens because your body attacks the cells in your pancreas that make the insulin, meaning you can’t produce any at all. 

We all need insulin to live. It does an essential job. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies. 

When you have type 1 diabetes, your body still breaks down the carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose. But when the glucose enters your bloodstream, there’s no insulin to allow it into your body’s cells. More and more glucose then builds up in your bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Type 2 diabetes

With type 2 diabetes the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly, or your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. This means your blood glucose (sugar) levels keep rising. 

Around 90% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 2. It is serious condition and can be lifelong. 

Having type 2 diabetes without treatment means that high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage parts of your body, including your eyes, heart and feet. These are called the complications of diabetes. But with the right treatment and care, you can live well with type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk of developing them. 

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. It affects women who haven't been affected by diabetes before. It means you have high blood sugar and need to take extra care of yourself and your bump. This will include eating well and keeping active

It usually goes away again after giving birth. It is usually diagnosed from a blood test 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy.

Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY)

MODY is a rare form of diabetes which is different from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and runs strongly in families. MODY is caused by a mutation (or change) in a single gene. If a parent has this gene mutation, any child they have, has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting it from them. If a child does inherit the mutation they will generally go on to develop MODY before they’re 25, whatever their weight, lifestyle, ethnic group etc.

Neonatal diabetes

Neonatal diabetes is a form of diabetes that is diagnosed under the age of six months. It’s a different type of diabetes than the more common type 1 diabetes as it’s not an autoimmune condition (where the body has destroyed its insulin producing cells).

Wolfram Syndrome

Wolfram Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder which is also known as DIDMOAD syndrome after its four most common features (Diabetes Insipidus, Diabetes Mellitus, Optic Atrophy and Deafness).

Alström Syndrome

Alström Syndrome is a rare genetically inherited syndrome which has a number of common features.

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA)

LADA is a type of diabetes which seems to straddle type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Bits of it are more like type 1, and other bits are more like type 2. That's why some people call it type 1.5 diabetes or type 1 ½ diabetes.

It’s not actually classified as a separate type of diabetes at the moment, but there's some medical research going on to try and pinpoint exactly what makes it different from type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 3c diabetes

Type 3c diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops when another disease causes damage to the pancreas. The conditions related to type 3c are pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis or haemochromatosis. You can also develop type 3c if you have part or all of your pancreas removed because of other damage.

Steroid-induced diabetes

Some people who take steroids can go on to develop diabetes. This is known as steroid-induced diabetes, and is more common in people who are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes

Cystic fibrosis diabetes

Cystic fibrosis diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in people with cystic fibrosis. Although it has features of both type 1 and type 2, it is a different condition. 

Monogenic diabetes 

Monogenic diabetes is a rare condition, different from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It’s caused by a mutation in a single gene. If a parent has this mutation, their children have a 50p per cent chance of inheriting it.Since monogenic diabetes is so rare, people can often get misdiagnosed.

And in some cases of monogenic diabetes, the condition can be managed with specific tablets and doesn’t require insulin treatment. That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand rare forms of diabetes and diagnose them correctly.

(There are two types of monogenic diabetes - Neonatal and MODY).


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