Diabetes just got a little more complicated, or clearer, depending on your perspective. Researchers in Scandinavia have proposed classifying diabetes as five types of disease, rather than two types, according to a new study.
But what are these different types, and why did the researchers make this decision?
Having diabetes means that a person’s blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. It’s an increasingly common disease; about 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In people with type 1 diabetes, which most often appears in childhood, the body cannot make insulin — a hormone that helps glucose get into cells. This condition occurs because the body’s immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
In type 2 diabetes, the body does not make or use insulin well. Often, this condition begins with insulin resistance, which means cells aren’t responding to insulin, even though the body is still making the hormone. The condition often occurs in middle-age or older adults and is thought to be related to lifestyle factors and obesity.