The diabetes was classified into two types- Type I and Type II. Not really!
According to a research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, a leading medical journal, there are five distinct types of diabetes that can occur in adulthood.
Currently, the disease is divided into two sub-types.
- With Type 1 — generally diagnosed in childhood and accounting for about 10 percent of cases — the body simply doesn't make insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- For Type 2, the body makes some insulin but not enough, which means glucose stays in the blood.
But now, a team of scientists in Sweden and Finland have identified five clusters of patients with diabetes. According to the researchers, each comes with significantly different characteristics and risk of complications.
Six different measurements were used across four separate studies: age at diagnosis, body mass index (BMI), long-term glycemic (blood sugar) control, the function of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, insulin resistance, and the presence of specific auto-antibodies linked to autoimmune diabetes.
Instead of splitting diabetes simply into type 1 and type 2, the researchers came up with five different disease profiles – one autoimmune type of diabetes and four other distinct subtypes. All five types were found to be genetically distinct, with no shared mutations.
According to researchers, this is enough to suggest that there are five distinct diseases that all affect the same body system, rather than the same disease at different stages of progression.
A recent blockbuster research study revealed a more precise breakdown of the types of diabetes, suggesting that instead of the recognized Types 1 and 2, there are five subsets of the disease. The new finding is likely to help doctors target treatments that are more personalized.
The Scandinavian researchers found that their diabetic subjects fell into five distinct clusters:
- Cluster 1. Severe autoimmune diabetes. This group is like the classic Type 1.
- Cluster 2. Severe insulin-deficient diabetes. Like Cluster 1 but the immune system wasn't the cause of their insulin deficiently. This group has the highest risk of retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that can cause vision loss.
- Cluster 3. Severe insulin-resistant diabetes. This occurs when people are overweight and highly insulin resistant which means that their bodies produce insulin, but their cells don't respond to it. This group has the highest risk of kidney disease.
- Cluster 4. Mild obesity-related diabetes. People have a milder form of the disease without as many metabolic problems and they tend to be obese.
- Cluster 5. Mild age-related diabetes. This form is like cluster 4 but people are older when they are diagnosed. This cluster is the most common form, affecting about 40 percent of the people in the study.
Many doctors treat their patients as individuals as they tailor treatment to the patient, establishing who needs oral medications and who needs insulin. They also prescribe diet and exercise for all. A big part of my task is to figure out what is keeping someone from succeeding at gaining control of their blood sugar.
The researchers do note some limitations though: there's no evidence yet that these five types of diabetes have different causes, and the sample only included Scandinavian patients, so a wider study is going to be required to investigate this further.
Millions more are thought to have pre-diabetes, or blood sugar levels that are above the normal range but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetic.
Common warning signs include:
- feeling very thirsty
- peeing more regularly, especially at night
- feeling really tired
- weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
- itching around the penis or vagina, frequent bouts of thrush
- cuts or wounds than take ages to heal
- blurry vision
Type 1 diabetes, which is a serious lifelong condition that typically requires insulin injections or pump, can develop quickly over a matter of weeks, even days.
In contrast, people can live with type 2 diabetes for years without realizing it, but the condition can be reversed by adopting a healthier lifestyle and losing weight.