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Diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, Gestational

Diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational), Symptoms and Causes

Diabetes (type 1, type 2 and gestational) is a metabolic disorder characterized by a failure to secrete enough insulin, or, in some cases, the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Because insulin is needed by the body to convert glucose into energy, these failures result in abnormally high levels of glucose accumulating in the blood. Diabetes (type 1 and type 2) may be a result of other conditions such as genetic syndromes, chemicals, drugs, malnutrition, infections, viruses or other illnesses.

Other conditions that are sometimes related to diabetes include hypoglycemia, insulinoma, cholesterol disorders and high triglycerides.

The three main types of diabetes — diabetes type 1, diabetes type 2 and gestational diabetes — are all defined as metabolic disorders that affect the way the body metabolizes, or uses, digested food to make glucose (the main source of fuel for the body.)

Diabetes Type 1 — Defining the two forms of diabetes type 1:

  • Idiopathic diabetes type 1 — refers to rare forms of diabetes type 1 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 diabetes type 1 experienced by men and women, and the one generally referred to as type 1 diabetes. While type 1 diabetes typically develops in children and young adults, it can occur at any age. This particular metabolic disorder accounts for approximately 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes (type 1 and type 2) in the United States.

Diabetes Type 2 — Diabetes type 2 is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body's inability to make enough, or to properly use, insulin. It was once commonly referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Without adequate production or utilization of insulin, the body cannot move blood sugar into the cells. This can result in a variety of diabetes type 2 symptoms (as listed below) and is potentially fatal. Unfortunately diabetes type 2 is a chronic illness with no known cure. It is the most common form of diabetes and accounts for approximately 90 percent of diabetes cases in the United States.

Gestational diabetes — Gestational diabetes is a condition in women with no history of diabetes (type 1 and type 2), during which the glucose level is elevated and other diabetes symptoms appear during pregnancy. Some measure of change is required to control gestational diabetes symptoms during pregnancy, however all diabetes symptoms typically disappear following delivery. According to the ADA, approximately 4 to 8 percent of all pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with gestational diabetes each year.

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

Diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational) Symptoms:

The following are the most commonly seen diabetes symptoms. However, each individual may experience diabetes type 1 symptoms, gestational and diabetes 2 type symptoms differently.

Common diabetes symptoms may include:

  • Hyperglycemia — high levels of sugar in the blood when tested
  • Glycosuria — high levels of sugar in the urine when tested
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger but no loss of weight
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme weakness and fatigue
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Frequent, slow-to-heal infections
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Tingling and/or loss of feeling in the hands or feet

Diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational) Causes:

The exact causes of diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2 are not known. However, it is believed that genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors (possibly viruses) may be involved in the development of diabetes and emergence of relative diabetes type 1 symptoms and diabetes type 2 symptoms.

The cause of gestational diabetes is also not completely understood, but 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.