Diabetes is defined as a condition in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are above the normal range. In a minority of cases, this happens because your body is no longer producing the hormone insulin, which carries glucose into your cells where it can be converted into energy. This is known as Type 1 diabetes, sometimes called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
In Type 1 diabetes, the specialized beta cells of the pancreas, stop producing the hormone insulin, which is necessary for moving glucose into the cells, where it is burned for energy. Type 1 diabetes usually starts in childhood, currently people with this form of diabetes require lifelong insulin administration and careful dietary management to survive.
Recently, it has been reported that stem cell transplants have been successful in curing this disease.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of all cases of diabetes. The cause of Type 1 diabetes is in most cases an auto-immune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually strikes very suddenly – the person may appear fine one day and be very sick just a few weeks or even days later.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common type of diabetes and it can be prevented and treated through diet and lifestyle changes. Between 90 – 95 percent of the people with diabetes have Type 2, a disease that is quite different from Type 1. In the large majority of cases of the Type 2 variety, the individual still makes insulin in fact, he or she may make large amounts of it – but the cells respond more slowly to its presence. This slowed response is called insulin resistance. If you have Type 2 diabetes, over time as your cells become more resistant to the insulin signal, blood sugar rises above normal levels. What’s happening? It’s as if the insulin knocks at the doors of the cells and asks that the glucose be let in, but the cells don’t answer the door. So the amount of glucose circulating in the blood increases – you become hyperglycemic and that causes a lot of damage.
To force the glucose to enter the cells, your pancreas pours out more insulin. Eventually, the pancreas becomes unable to produce such high levels of insulin; as a result, insulin must be administered in order to control the blood sugar level.