Diabetes: Types, Symptoms, Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 6 May 2021

Table of Contents


  1. Diabetes Overview
  2. The Role of Insulin in Diabetes
  3. Types of Diabetes
  4. Diabetes Symptoms
  5. Diabetes Treatments


Diabetes Overview


Diabetes is a term that refers to a group of disorders that all require issues with the hormone insulin. Normally, the pancreas (an organ located behind the stomach) produces insulin to assist the body in storing and using the sugar and fat found in food. 


Diabetes develops as a result of one of the following:


  • When the pancreas does not produce insulin.
  • When the pancreas releases a minimal amount of insulin.
  • When the body does not react properly to insulin, this is referred to as “insulin resistance."


Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires lifetime management. Diabetes affects nearly 500 million individuals globally, the bulk of which live in low- and middle-income nations, and diabetes is responsible for approximately 1.6 million deaths per year. Over the last five decades, both the number of cases and the incidence of diabetes have slowly increased. There is currently no cure. Diabetes patients must treat their condition in order to maintain their wellbeing.

The Role of Insulin in Diabetes

To appreciate why insulin is critical in diabetes, it’s necessary to understand how the body uses food for energy. Millions of cells make up your body. To generate energy, these cells require a very simple form of food. When you eat or drink, a significant portion of your food is converted to a simple sugar called “glucose." The glucose is then transported through the bloodstream to the cells of your body, where it can be used to power some of your daily activities.

Insulin is responsible for firmly controlling the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. The pancreas is constantly releasing tiny doses of insulin. When the blood glucose level reaches a certain level, the pancreas releases additional insulin to push the glucose into the cells. This results in a decrease in the glucose levels in your blood.

To prevent dangerously low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia or low blood sugar), your body signals you to eat and releases some glucose from liver storage.

Individuals with diabetes either do not produce insulin or their cells are resistant to insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels, referred to as simply high blood sugar. Diabetes is defined as having a fasting blood glucose level of 126 mg per dl (mg/dL) or greater (not eating anything).

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs as a result of the immune system’s destruction of the pancreas’s insulin-producing cells, called beta cells. Individuals with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin and therefore rely on insulin shots to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes is more often diagnosed in individuals under the age of 20, although it may strike anybody at any age.

Type 2 Diabetes

In contrast to type 1 diabetes, individuals with type 2 diabetes produce insulin. However, the insulin secreted by their pancreas is insufficient or their bodies are immune to it. Whether there is no insulin or when insulin is not utilised properly, glucose cannot enter the body’s cells.

Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent type of diabetes in the world. Although the majority of these events are preventable, it is also the primary cause of diabetic problems in adults, including blindness, non-traumatic amputations, and progressive kidney disease involving dialysis. Type 2 diabetes is most common in overweight adults over the age of 40, although it does develop in non-obese individuals as well. Type 2 diabetes, which is often referred to as “adult-onset diabetes," has become more prevalent in children as a result of the increase of childhood obesity.

Certain individuals can treat their type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising daily. Others may also need a pill that aids in the body’s insulin use or insulin injections.

Mostly, doctors are willing to detect the risk of developing type 2 diabetes prior to the onset of the disease. This disease, often referred to as pre-diabetes, happens when a person’s blood sugar levels are greater than average but not elevated enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is induced during breastfeeding. Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy may impair insulin’s ability to function properly. Around 4% of all births are affected by this disease.

Pregnant women who are over 25 years old, are overweight prior to birth, have a family history of diabetes, or are Hispanic, black, Native American, or Asian have a greater chance of having gestational diabetes.

Prenatal screening for gestational diabetes is conducted. Gestational diabetes, if left unchecked, raises the likelihood of complications for both the woman and the unborn child.

Typically, after six weeks after delivery, blood sugar levels return to normal. Women who have experienced gestational diabetes, on the other hand, are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Diabetes Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes symptoms often manifest abruptly and may be serious. Among them are the following: 

  • Increased hunger (especially after eating).
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss that is unexplained (even though you are eating and feel hungry).
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness 
  • Blurred vision
  • Breathing that is laboured and heavy (Kussmaul respirations).
  • Loss of consciousness

Type 2 diabetes may present with the same symptoms as type 1 diabetes. Frequently, there are no signs or a very slow onset of the above symptoms. Additional signs can include the following:

  • Sores or wounds that take a long time to recover.
  • Skin itch (usually in the vaginal or groin area).
  • Frequent yeast infections
  • Recent weight gain
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Impotence – erectile dysfunction.

Diabetes Management

Diabetes cannot be cured at the moment, however it can be treated and managed. The aims of diabetes management are to: 

  • Maintain blood sugar levels as close to average as practicable by a balance of food consumption, medication, and exercise.
  • Maintain healthy serum cholesterol and triglyceride (lipid) levels by eliminating added sugars and refined starches and limiting saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure level. You should not get a blood pressure reading greater than 130/80.
  • Slow or even halt the progression of diabetes-related health complications.

You are in control of your diabetes by 

  • Planning healthy meals and following your diet
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Taking medication as required and adhering only to the directions of how and when to take it.
  • Monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure levels regularly at home.
  • Go to all your appointments and checkups with your nurse and doctors. 

Bear in mind that what you do at home on a daily basis has a greater impact on your blood sugar than what your doctor will do during your checkups every few months.


Referenced on  15/4/2021

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  8. Dietary recommendations for gestational diabetes. (n.d.).
  9. Gestational diabetes. (2017).
  10. Insulin, medicines, & other diabetes treatments. (2016). 
  11. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Diabetes: Symptoms & causes.
  12. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Diabetes insipidus: Symptoms & causes.
  13. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Gestational diabetes: Diagnosis & treatment.
  14. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Type 1 diabetes: Symptoms & causes.
  15. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Type 2 diabetes: Diagnosis & treatment.
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  23. Who’s at risk? (2017).
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  25. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: “Introduction to Diabetes."
  26. JAMA Patient Page: “Diabetes."
  27. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diabetes-basics 

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