Researchers believe that there are actually five types of diabetes. Earlier medical professionals largely classified diabetes into two main “types” or categories.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the blood glucose in the human body is too high. This is also more popularly referred to as ‘blood sugar’. Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. Acute complications from diabetes could result in diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state, or in some cases even death.
So far, scientific research and medicine has noted that there are three types of diabetes (two main types). They are:
Type 1 diabetes: It happens when the pancreas fails to produce the amount of insulin required for proper regulation of blood sugar in the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes was previously referred to as "insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (IDDM) or "juvenile diabetes". Medical professionals still do not know the exact cause that results in a person getting Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes: This begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly. As the disease progresses a lack of insulin may also develop. This form was previously referred to as "non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (NIDDM) or "adult-onset diabetes". Research has proven that this form of diabetes is primarily caused due to excessive body weight and insufficient exercise.
Gestational diabetes: This is the third form of diabetes. This occurs when pregnant women who have previous history of diabetes develop high blood sugar levels. There is a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025. According to the World Health Organization there are 422 million adults in the world who presently have diabetes. Every year, 1.6 million deaths are directly attributed to this condition.
New research has shown that there are five types of diabetes that can occur in adulthood. This is a radical departure from the two types of diabetes that are currently recognized.
Leif Groop, professor of diabetes and endocrinology at Lund University led the study. Researchers note that the five new types of diabetes are all different and distinct in their own ways and this will help in the personalization of medical treatment.
"This is the first step towards personalized treatment of diabetes," said Groop who is an endocrinologist at Lund University in Sweden. He also added that these new classifications are a paradigm shift. “For the patient, I think it will mean a more individualized therapy [and] a better quality of life. Diabetes is not the grey mass we have been calling type 2 – there are really subsets of the disease that require different treatment,” he added.
The results, which have been published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology reveal:
Cluster 1 – this is same as the classical type 1 and occurs in people when they are young.
Cluster 2 – this is similar to Cluster 1 in that it affects young people who also are not overweight but struggle to make insulin. However, in this case, the immune system is not at fault.
Cluster 3 – occurring in people who are generally overweight and making insulin. However, their bodies have stopped responding to it.
Cluster 4 - mild obesity-related diabetes.
Cluster 5 – this is a form of mild diabetes that is age-related. Patients who develop these symptoms are significantly older than in other groups and their disease tended to be milder.
Dr. Emily Burns, head of research communications at Diabetes UK said finding diabetes subtypes could help patients, but for that more work was needed. “This research takes a promising step toward breaking down type 2 diabetes in more detail, but we still need to know more about these subtypes before we can understand what this means for people living with the condition,” she said. “For example, whether we’d find the same subtypes in people of different ethnicity or nationality.”
Our assessment is that diabetes is a debilitating disease affecting millions of people around the world. The findings of the new research could possibly help medical professionals identify and personalize a treatment that is more effective than the current methods in use.