Beyond Types 1 And 2: What You Need To Know About The 7 Diabetes Types


MODY (Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young) is generally put under the umbrella of type 1.5 because it develops later in life and is not type 2. However, it’s a little different. MODY is a monogenic disease, which means that it results from an error in one of your genes, and you only need to inherit one copy of a MODY gene from one of your parents in order to have MODY. There are different types based on the specific gene that causes MODY, and each will present a bit differently. Some will affect the body’s ability to secrete insulin in response to meals and others will affect the body’s ability to regulate fasting blood sugar, but they will all mess with blood sugar levels and require close blood sugar monitoring.

MODY is often, and easily, misdiagnosed as type 1 or 2, and the testing for MODY is extensive and expensive. However, only about 5% or less of all diabetes cases are MODY, so your chances are slim. But a parent has a 50% chance of passing on MODY to their child.

Photo: AdobeStock/kaliantye
Photo: AdobeStock/kaliantye

5. Gestational

As the name implies, women can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes generally develops in the latter half of a woman’s pregnancy and will affect how the body’s cells use sugar. During pregnancy, the placenta in a woman’s body produces all kinds of hormones that can affect the body’s ability to properly use the hormone insulin. Some elevated blood sugar is normal during pregnancy, but too much could indicate gestational diabetes.

High blood sugar could potentially have adverse affects on mom and baby, and a doctor will monitor the woman’s health to minimize risk. Blood sugar usually returns to normal after giving birth, but a woman who has had gestational diabetes will be at higher risk for type 2 later in life.

Photo: AdobeStock/greenazya
Photo: AdobeStock/greenazya

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7. Prediabetes

Prediabetes, (fully explained here), is simply high blood sugar that’s not quite high enough to qualify as diabetes. Those with type 2 will have prediabetes before they develop diabetes, though they may not realize it. It’s estimated that about 1 in 3 American adults has prediabetes, and the vast majority don’t even know that they have it. Those who are diagnosed with prediabetes should work with their doctor to take steps to prevent type 2 from developing.

Prediabetes may not always develop into full diabetes, but it’s important to remember that prediabetes is an area along a diabetes-bound spectrum, and a person with 5.6% A1C and a person with 5.7% A1C don’t have that great of a difference in blood sugar, but the first will be classified as prediabetic and the second as diabetic.

Photo: AdobeStock/Syda Productions
Photo: AdobeStock/Syda Productions

8. Diabetes Insipidus

Never heard of diabetes insipidus? Well, that’s probably because it’s not actually related to any of the types of diabetes discussed above, and that’s why it wasn’t included in the 7 types. It doesn’t affect the pancreas or insulin production or even blood sugar. It’s an extremely rare condition (discussed here) that affects 1 in about 25,000 people and is caused by hormone malfunctions that cause the kidneys to produce too much urine. The body can’t retain water, and a person has to constantly drink water in order to avoid dehydration.

Marc Wübbenhorst, a German man affected by the disease, has to urinate up to 50 times a day. And that’s where the name “diabetes” comes in. The term diabetes is Greek and refers to frequent urination. Diabetes mellitus, which encompasses all the types above except insipidus, means “sweet urine disease” since the body tries to eliminate excess blood sugar through the urine. In diabetes insipidus, the urine is not sweet but diluted. The two conditions are not related except in name.

Photo: AdobeStock/ike
Photo: AdobeStock/ike

Looking Toward the Future

It’s also possible that there are other types of diabetes not yet understood. And it’s important to remember that while two people may have the same type, everyone’s body will respond a bit differently to insulin, food, and exercise. Each person with diabetes is more than just a type, and we encourage everyone to find what works best for them!

Stay healthy, friends!

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