Health Information

Diabetes (Type 1, 2, and Gestational)

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes may also be known by a variety of other names, including the following:
  • insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)
  • juvenile diabetes
  • brittle diabetes
  • sugar diabetes

There are two forms of type 1 diabetes:
  • idiopathic type 1 diabetes - refers to rare forms of the disease with no known cause
  • immune-mediated diabetes - an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system destroys, or attempts to destroy, the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
    Immune-mediated diabetes is the most common form of type 1 diabetes, and the one generally referred to as type 1 diabetes. The information on this page refers to this form of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in the US. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but can start at any age.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, but it is believed that genetic and environmental factors (possibly viruses) may be involved. The body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin allows glucose to enter the cells of the body to provide energy.

When glucose cannot enter the cells, it builds up in the blood, depriving the cells of nutrition. People with type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections and regularly monitor their blood sugar levels.

Treatment for type 1 diabetes:

Specific treatment for type 1 diabetes will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body's inability to make enough, or to properly use, insulin. It used to be called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).

Without adequate production or utilization of insulin, the body cannot move blood sugar into the cells. It is a chronic disease that has no known cure. It is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown. However, there does appear to be a genetic factor which causes it to run in families. And, although a person can inherit a tendency to develop type 2 diabetes, it usually takes another factor, such as obesity, to bring on the disease.

Treatment for type 2 diabetes:

Specific treatment for type 2 diabetes will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which the glucose level is elevated and other diabetic symptoms appear during pregnancy in a woman who has not previously been diagnosed with diabetes. All diabetic symptoms disappear following delivery.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes is not caused by a lack of insulin, but by blocking effects of other hormones on the insulin that is produced, a condition referred to as insulin resistance.

Approximately 3 percent to 8 percent of all pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

What causes gestational diabetes?

Although the cause of gestational diabetes is not known, there are some theories as to why the condition occurs.

The placenta supplies a growing fetus with nutrients and water, as well as produces a variety of hormones to maintain the pregnancy. Some of these hormones (estrogen, cortisol, and human placental lactogen) can have a blocking effect on insulin. This is called contra-insulin effect, which usually begins about 20 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

As the placenta grows, more of these hormones are produced, and insulin resistance becomes greater. Normally, the pancreas is able to make additional insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but when the production of insulin is not enough to overcome the effect of the placental hormones, gestational diabetes results.

Treatment for gestational diabetes:

Specific treatment for gestational diabetes will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference