Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Types of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus (or diabetes) is a chronic, lifelong condition that affects your body's ability to use the energy found in food. There are three major types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

All types of diabetes mellitus have something in common. Normally, your body breaks down the sugars and carbohydrates you eat into a special sugar called glucose. Glucose fuels the cells in your body. But the cells need insulin, a hormone, in your bloodstream in order to take in the glucose and use it for energy. With diabetes mellitus, either your body doesn't make enough insulin, it can't use the insulin it does produce, or a combination of both.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Just a few years ago, it was rare to hear about a child with type 2 diabetes. It used to be thought that if diabetes occurred in childhood, it was type 1, or juvenile-onset, diabetes. Not anymore. Now, according to the CDC, more than 186,000 people younger than age 20 have diabetes -- both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes. How can you prevent this threat to your child's health? What can you do if your child is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?

Read the Type 2 Diabetes in Children article > >

Since the cells can't take in the glucose, it builds up in your blood. High levels of blood glucose can damage the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys, heart, eyes, or nervous system. That's why diabetes -- especially if left untreated -- can eventually cause heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and nerve damage to nerves in the feet.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is also called insulin-dependent diabetes. It used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes, because it often begins in childhood.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. It's caused by the body attacking its own pancreas with antibodies. In people with type 1 diabetes, the damaged pancreas doesn't make insulin.

This type of diabetes may be caused by a genetic predisposition. It could also be the result of faulty beta cells in the pancreas that normally produce insulin.

A number of medical risks are associated with type 1 diabetes. Many of them stem from damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes (called diabetic retinopathy), nerves (diabetic neuropathy), and kidneys (diabetic nephropathy). Even more serious is the increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Treatment for type 1 diabetes involves taking insulin, which needs to be injected through the skin into the fatty tissue below. The methods of injecting insulin include:

  • Syringes
  • Insulin pens that use pre-filled cartridges and a fine needle
  • Jet injectors that use high pressure air to send a spray of insulin through the skin
  • Insulin pumps that dispense insulin through flexible tubing to a catheter under the skin of the abdomen

A periodic test called the A1C blood test estimates glucose levels in your blood over the previous three months. It's used to help identify overall glucose level control and the risk of complications from diabetes, including organ damage.

Having type 1 diabetes does require significant lifestyle changes that include:

  • Frequent testing of your blood sugar levels
  • Careful meal planning
  • Daily exercise
  • Taking insulin and other medications as needed

People with type 1 diabetes can lead long, active lives if they carefully monitor their glucose, make the needed lifestyle changes, and adhere to the treatment plan.

1 | 2 | 3

WebMD Medical Reference

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections