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What are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

One of the questions we get asked a lot on Diabetic South Africans is about the different types of diabetes. There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. Here’s some basic information about the differences between the different types. Let us know if you have any other questions in the comments below!

type 1 and type 2 diabetes


Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas stops producing the necessary hormones to absorb blood sugar. The diabetes diagnosis is often very sudden and dramatic, usually in hospital. If you look after yourself, though, it is possible to thrive after a Type 1 diagnosis. All Type 1 diabetics have to take injections with every meal (and before going to bed). Some Type 1 diabetics use a pump instead of injections.

Type 1 diabetes is most common in children or youth under 30, but more and more older people are being diagnosed as Type 1s. It is not caused by eating the wrong food, or eating too much sugar, or being overweight. Type 1 diabetes is not hereditary (it doesn’t run in the family), but it is genetic (it lives in your genes). Remember that diabetes is a self-managed condition. Good diabetes management often comes down to the right attitude and approach to living with a chronic condition – here’s some advice from a few decades of living with Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the more common type of diabetes (90% of diabetics have Type 2 diabetes). It is often caused by diet and lifestyle: too much junk food, sugar, refined carbs and not enough exercise. In Type 2 diabetics, the pancreas still works, but the body is resistant to the hormones and can’t process them effectively.

Type 2 diabetes, also known as diabetes 2 or sugar diabetes (in South Africa) is most common in adults. That said, large numbers of children are being diagnosed (usually if they are overweight and not active). People who are overweight or who have diabetes in their family are more at risk and may need to lose weight. Here are some helpful tips on how to manage Type 2 diabetes, including weight loss tips, portion control and how to choose the right kinds of food.

The medication is usually tablets followed by injections at a later date if necessary. Sometimes, Type 2 diabetes medication can cause diarrhoea (upset stomach), but if you take it at night this is less of a problem. If it is caught early enough, Type 2 diabetes is reversible with a change in diet and exercising more. Do you have to change your lifestyle to manage Type 2 diabetes? Yes. But if you do, you can live a long and healthy life.

gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a condition of high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes are at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. As with Type 2 diabetes, it can often be controlled with diet and exercise, although  it will sometimes need tablets. The risk of gestational diabetes is that if it is undiagnosed, it can harm the baby – it’s important to get checked for gestational diabetes during pregnancy (usually at the beginning of the third trimester).

There is also a fourth type of diabetes, known as LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes) or Type 1.5 diabetes. This is a condition where Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in adults, who would more often be candidates for Type 2. It has all the same characteristics as Type 1 diabetes, except that it is diagnosed much later.

What type of diabetes do you have? Were you told clearly when you were diagnosed?

Photo by Mark Claus on Unsplash

Published inFactsJust Diagnosed

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