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Understanding the Types of Diabetes

Consuming too much sugar — either by drinking it in sugary drinks or eating it in foods — can increase your chances of developing a serious health condition called type 2 diabetes.

There are several types of diabetes, however, and not all are related to obesity, physical activity and what we eat and drink. Find out more about three types of diabetes below.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a condition that causes the level of sugar in the blood to get too high. In type 1 diabetes, blood sugar levels rise out of control because the body has stopped making enough of the hormone called insulin. The job of insulin is to move sugar from the blood into the cells to use as fuel now or store for later.

Type 1 diabetes is not caused by a lack of physical activity or what we eat or drink. Instead, people with type 1 diabetes develop the condition because their bodies have stopped making insulin. In some cases, their pancreas is damaged. Type 1 diabetes is most often found when a person is a child or a young adult.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes seen in women during pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes does not mean a pregnant woman will continue to have diabetes after her pregnancy. Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, however, have higher chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes is called type 2 diabetes. People with this type of diabetes cannot use insulin properly. The job of insulin is to move sugar from the blood into the cells to use as fuel now or store for later. Type 2 diabetes can start with what’s called insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, the body needs more and more insulin to move sugar into the cells. Eventually the body stops making enough insulin to keep blood sugar at normal levels, and then blood sugar levels rise. Over time, high blood sugar can hurt your kidneys, heart, nerves and eyes.

This type of diabetes can develop at any age, even during childhood, and is linked to obesity, too much sugar in the diet, and too little physical activity. Treating type 2 diabetes can require eating healthy and being physically active. Some people with type 2 diabetes take oral medication and insulin to manage their disease.

Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by reducing risk factors, such as losing weight, choosing healthy foods and drinks, being more physically active, and managing stress. Other risk factors for type 2 diabetes include having diabetes while pregnant or having a family history of diabetes.

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To Learn More

  • Contact your healthcare provider
  • Contact the American Diabetes Association
    1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383)
  • For Type 1 Diabetes information, contact this organization:
    Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
    1-800-533-CURE (1-800-533-2873)
  • Alaska Diabetes Prevention and Control Program

    Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS)
  • E-mail: diabetes@alaska.gov
  • Phone: 907-269-8035

Webpage updated December 2019