Types of Diabetes

There are many different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes (previously called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes) usually affects children and adolescents, but can develop at any age. Approximately 5–10 percent of all diabetes diagnoses are type 1 and about 75 percent of new diagnoses are in children younger than 18.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means that the patient's own immune system produces antibodies that attack and destroy cells in the body, including cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Because the pancreas can no longer make insulin, children with type 1 diabetes need insulin injections for the rest of their lives, or until a new method for delivering insulin is developed and approved.

Type 2 diabetes often is linked to obesity. In the past, this type was called non-insulin dependent or adult-onset diabetes. However, obesity rates are rising rapidly in children and adolescents and type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in these age groups.

Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance. This occurs when the body's cells cannot respond properly to insulin and do not accept glucose. The pancreas makes more and more insulin, but the cells still do not respond. Eventually, the pancreas wears out and cannot make enough insulin to control the rising level of blood glucose and diabetes develops.

Children with type 2 diabetes sometimes can manage their blood sugar through exercise, diet, and medication and do not need to have insulin injections.

"Hybrid" or "mixed" diabetes occurs when symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 are present. Children who have this type often are obese and have insulin resistance in addition to antibodies that attack and destroy beta cells.

Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) is a rare form of diabetes, caused by a genetic defect that interferes with insulin secretion. This type usually occurs before the age of 25. MODY represents about 2–5% of all diabetes cases.

Secondary diabetes can develop in children who have cystic fibrosis or who need glucocorticoid medications (e.g., children who have certain inflammatory, autoimmune diseases, or who have had an organ transplant). This type represents approximately 1–5 percent of diabetes cases.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 28 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013