Get a HbA1c test for prediabetes and diabetes with our home test kit
Let’s run through the causes of type 1, type 2 & gestational diabetes, who they affect & how they can be managed
Diabetes is a serious condition that causes a person's blood glucose (sugar) levels to become too high. For those with diabetes, their body is unable to break down glucose into energy. Depending on the type of diabetes, this could be that either your body doesn’t make any insulin at all, or the insulin it does make doesn't work properly or there isn’t enough of it. Although there are many different types of diabetes, the two main types are type 1 and type 2.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition where blood glucose levels are too high because the body can’t produce insulin. It’s an autoimmune condition caused by the immune system mistakenly killing cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Symptoms include:
• Feeling very thirsty
• Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
• Feeling very tired
• Losing weight without trying
• Thrush that keeps coming back
• Blurred vision
• Cuts and grazes that aren't healing
Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, it’s usually diagnosed in childhood. Once diagnosed, those with type 1 will need to take insulin for the rest of their lives, usually through injections, using an insulin pen or an insulin pump. They’ll also need to regularly test their blood sugar levels.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common type, affects around 90 percent of those with diabetes. Unlike type 1, it isn’t an autoimmune condition and develops when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. There are several risk factors for type 2 including:
• Being overweight or obese
• Having a waist size of 80 cm (31.5 inches) or more for women, or 94 cm (37 inches) or more for men
• Having a close relative with type 2 diabetes, like a parent or sibling
• Eating an unhealthy diet
• Being physically inactive
• Having high blood pressure or raised cholesterol levels
• Being of South Asian or African-Caribbean descent
Although both type 1 and type 2 diabetes share common symptoms, type 2 symptoms often develop slowly over time. This means it’s possible to have type 2 diabetes for many years without knowing it. Diabetes can cause long-term health problems if it’s not well managed, so early diagnosis and treatment is very important. Make sure you’re aware of the symptoms and speak with your GP if you’re worried.
How to manage type 2 diabetes
Despite most people needing medicine to help control their type 2 diabetes, there are more ways to manage type 2 diabetes compared to type 1. If you’re at risk of type 2, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent it developing. These include:
• Losing weight if you're overweight
• Eating a healthy, balanced diet
• Quitting smoking
• Drinking less alcohol
• Exercising regularly
What are the other types of diabetes?
Another common type of diabetes is gestational diabetes which develops during pregnancy. It’s often diagnosed from a blood test in the third trimester (between 24 and 28 weeks) and usually disappears after the baby is born. Although any woman can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you’re at an increased risk if:
• Your body mass index (BMI) is above 30
• You’ve previously had a baby who weighed 4.5kg (10lb) or more at birth
• You’ve had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
• One of your parents or siblings has diabetes
• You’re of South Asian, Black, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin (even if you were born in the UK)
If any of these apply to you, you should be offered screening for gestational diabetes during your pregnancy.
There are other types of diabetes, including type 3 diabetes, double diabetes, secondary diabetes and latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (diabetes LADA). Around two percent of those with diabetes have one of these other types.
Speak with your GP if you experience any diabetes symptoms, or if you have any of the risk factors discussed and you’re worried about developing diabetes in future.
*Subject to availability and clinician approval. Charges apply.