Diabetes is a metabolic disease where the body’s pancreas does not produce enough insulin or does not properly respond to insulin produced, resulting in high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. There are several different types of diabetes, but the most common forms are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both impact glucose levels, and if left untreated, can cause serious complications.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) can occur at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed from infancy to late 30s. If a person is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, their pancreas produces little to no insulin, and the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin several times every day or continually infuse insulin through a pump, as well as manage their diet and exercise habits.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) typically develops after age 40, but has recently begun to appear with more frequency in children. If a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, their pancreas still produces insulin, but the body does not produce enough or is not able to use it effectively. Those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes manage their disease through a combination of treatments, including diet control, exercise, self-monitoring of blood glucose, and in some cases, oral drugs, insulin or insulin pumps.
Researchers are still trying to get a clear picture of what causes diabetes—they’ve found that genes don’t tell the whole story, and that environmental factors also play a role. Lack of exercise and obesity in modern society has contributed to an increased risk of T2. There is also a misconception that the cause of diabetes is hereditary, and primarily occurs in families where there is someone else with diabetes.