What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition impacting well over 30 million Americans. While there are multiple different forms of Diabetes, they are all referred to as Diabetes. This is because all of them impact how the body processes blood sugar, which is, of course, a critical bodily function. However, the types of Diabetes are all quite different. Below, we’ll explain the types, causes, and treatments of the more common forms of Diabetes.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disorder that was once referred to as Juvenile Diabetes despite the fact that T1D is a lifelong condition that can occur at any age, not only in childhood. In this form of Diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Insulin is an essential hormone we need in order to deliver glucose (blood sugar from carbohydrates in food) throughout the body.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is also related to blood glucose and insulin, but this form of Diabetes is not an autoimmune condition like Type 1 Diabetes. People with Type 2 Diabetes do not properly process blood sugar because the body has become resistant to insulin or no longer produces enough insulin to support this essential process.
What is The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
When comparing Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes, the biggest difference is that Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease while Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic condition that develops over time. As such, there are lifestyle risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes, such as weight, activity level, and diet, yet this is not the case with Type 1 Diabetes.
What Causes Diabetes?
When looking at what causes Type 1 Diabetes, there isn’t any clear answer yet. While scientists believe most autoimmune diseases are caused by combinations of genetic and environmental factors, there is no specific known cause of Type 1 Diabetes. This also means there is no method of prevention yet.
Looking at what causes Type 2 Diabetes, however, is a little clearer. The most commonly mentioned cause of Type 2 Diabetes is lifestyle. Things like poor diet, obesity, and lack of exercise can all increase one’s risk of developing this disease.
However, there are also genetic factors at play in the development of Type 2 Diabetes. For instance, if someone’s parent had/has Type 2 Diabetes, s/he is more likely to develop it, but living a healthy lifestyle can help decrease that risk.
How Can I Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes prevention is mainly about living a healthy lifestyle:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get frequent exercise
- Eat a healthy diet
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- Do not smoke
By living a healthier lifestyle, you can help decrease your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes as well as many other lifestyle-related conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), osteoarthritis, heart disease, and some cancers.
Having an annual physical is another great way to protect yourself. Your doctor can check your blood glucose levels or perform other tests to determine if you are experiencing Prediabetes, which can progress into Type 2 Diabetes. If you have Prediabetes, your doctor may prescribe medications to help manage the complications of this condition while you work toward better health.
What Are The Other Types of Diabetes?
Some studies indicate that there are actually five different types of Diabetes. However, those theories are still being tested.In terms of diagnostics, there are three main types of Diabetes currently recognized:
- Type 1 Diabetes,
- Type 2 Diabetes (Pre-diabetes falls under this), and
- Gestational Diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes is a form of Diabetes that develops during pregnancy for some women. A potentially serious complication, Gestational Diabetes can cause several issues such as high maternal blood pressure, high birth weight, respiratory distress in newborns, preterm delivery (early birth), and low blood glucose in the baby right after birth. Studies demonstrate that people whose mothers experience Gestational Diabetes are also more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes as adults and that the mothers’ risk of T2D is also increased.
How Can I Protect Myself When Living With Diabetes?
Once you’ve been diagnosed with Diabetes, there is a long period of adjusting to your, “new normal.” Depending on the type of Diabetes you have, you may be partnering with your primary care physician, endocrinologist, or obstetrician/gynecologist to manage your condition.
Support groups and educational groups can be of great benefit while you learn the best ways to manage your specific symptoms so you can live your best life.
There are a lot of tools you may need to manage your Diabetes, depending on the type, including everything from prescriptions to test strips for your glucose meter. As you and your doctor(s) determine the best treatment path for your specific needs, you’ll learn more about the many tools on the market for Diabetes management.
One tool everyone with Diabetes needs, regardless of the type, is a medical ID. Diabetes is one of the most common conditions for which people wear med IDs, because every type of Diabetes carries risks associated with low blood glucose events. Sometimes, when a person with Diabetes experiences low blood sugar, the experience comes on very quickly and may cause mood changes, nausea, disorientation, fear, and confusion.
A person experiencing low blood glucose may appear inebriated or may lose consciousness. Wearing a Diabetes bracelet certainly won’t prevent such events, but having a custom-engraved Diabetes med ID means that in an emergency, your diagnosis and emergency contact information is readily available to First Responders. When an EMT is able to quickly identify that a patient has Diabetes, s/he has what’s needed to more quickly and effectively provide treatment and potentially avoid unnecessary tests and trips to the hospital.
Learn more about what you’ll want to include in your diabetes emergency kit.