Types of Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause is unknown, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1, the body does not produce insulin, the hormone that allows the body to process sugar. The condition can severely damage the kidneys and pancreas and in some cases, can lead to damage that makes an organ transplant necessary.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. In type 2, either the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows the body to use sugar. Sugar is the basic fuel for the cells in the body, and insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause two problems:

  • Your cells become starved for energy.
  • Over time, high blood glucose levels may adversely affect your eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.


Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have pre-diabetes—blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during pre-diabetes.

However, if you take action to control your blood glucose when you have pre-diabetes, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. If you have, or are at risk for pre-diabetes, there are many steps you can take for your health and well-being. People with pre-diabetes can expect to benefit from much of the same advice for good nutrition and physical activity.

Gestational diabetes

Hormonal changes and weight gain are part of a normal pregnancy. But for at least three out of every 100 pregnant women, these changes cause insulin resistance and a rise in blood sugar, resulting in gestational diabetes. With proper treatment, gestational diabetes can be controlled, preventing harm to you and your baby.

The key to keeping yourself and your baby healthy is to manage your blood glucose levels by seeking education from a certified diabetes educator. We can translate confusing nutrition restrictions into a customized meal plan for each individual. It is important to know that what you eat, how much you eat and how often you eat each affect your blood sugar levels. Suggested meal plans may include:

  • Eating three small meals and three snacks a day
  • Limiting starches, including cereal, rice, pasta, and potatoes to one cup per meal
  • Avoiding sweetened beverages such as soda, iced tea, and juice.

After giving birth, blood glucose levels in most mothers with gestational diabetes return to normal. However, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes within eight to 10 years is increased. Eating right and staying active—30 minutes of exercise or more for at least five days a week—remain important to prevent this from happening.

Maturity onset diabetes of youth (MODY)

A mutation in a single gene that limits a person's ability to produce insulin causes MODY. MODY runs in families and is often not diagnosed until adulthood, even though it is always present.

Latent autoimmune diabetes (LADA)

This is a type of diabetes that shows signs of both Type I and Type II diabetes. It is often called Type 1.5 diabetes, or double diabetes. In this form of the disease, patients are able to produce their own insulin, but, because of an abnormal autoimmune response, the pancreas cells slowly lose their ability to produce insulin.

For more information or to find a diabetes or endocrine specialist, call:



MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
33rd Street Building, Suite 501
200 East 33rd Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
Office: 410-554-4511
Fax: 410-554-6490

MedStar Health Urgent Care and Medical Offices
Federal Hill
1420 Key Highway, Third Floor
Baltimore, MD 21230

MedStar Adult Medicine
2800 Kirk Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21218

Lake Falls Village Center
6080 Falls Road, Suite 204
Baltimore, MD 21209

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