Diabetes – so what are Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, Type 1.5 and gestational diabetes? (and pre-diabetes as well)

Doctor Max Pemberton
Doctor Max Pemberton

One of the big confusions, for a lot of people, is what are the different types of diabetes. In fact a lot of people have never heard of type 1.5 and type 3 diabetes. So we though we would ask Dr Max Pemberton who is an expert in this field!

He told us “I think this causes people a lot of confusion. There’s three main ones – Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes and they’re all quite different. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an immune response whereby the body creates antibodies to the cells that make insulin in the pancreas, and it destroys those cells. So people with Type 1 diabetes no longer have the cells that make insulin, and so therefore they have low or no insulin in their blood.

Type 2 is quite different and that’s where the cells in the body have become resistant to the effects of insulin, so their body still makes insulin but the cells aren’t responding to it in the way that they should.

Now, gestational diabetes, that refers to a condition where women who are pregnant can sometimes develop diabetes and it’s just for the time that they are carrying a baby. So when they then give birth the majority of them, the diabetes then sort of passes. It’s really a response to being pregnant and the physical and hormonal changes that take place. People with gestational diabetes are at risk in the future of possibility developing diabetes but it is one of those things at the time, it then does go.

Now there’s these other terms that you mention, 1.5 and Type 3 and to be honest these complicate matters a bit. So all that 1.5 means really, it used to be thought that Type 1 diabetes affected people when they were very, very young and that’s when they first got diagnosed with it, and Type 2 was a result of lifestyle like being obese and so on, and that tended to happen when people were much older. Actually what they realised, that there is a group of people who despite might be relatively normal weight, they don’t have high cholesterol and so on and so on, so relatively physically healthy and yet still it’s often in their 40s or so they develop diabetes. So it’s not clear if it’s because of lifestyle changes, and it’s got a component probably of auto immune to it but it’s just presented much later, so it sits in-between Type 1 and Type 2 so they call it Type 1.2. To be honest I don’t think it is particularly helpful, I think it just confuses people.

Type 3 again I find it a slightly confusing term. It’s used by researchers just to talk about the evidence that shows that in some types of Alzheimer’s, the brain has become resistant to the effects of insulin. It’s just purely one of those scientific anomalies no one really quite understands quite what this means or the implications for either Alzheimer’s or indeed diabetes, but it’s one of these things you hear very occasional, sort of banded around usually within academic circles. It’s not something to worry about. Personally I definitely don’t think about Type 3 diabetes. The main three don’t forget are Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. ”

We also asked for a definition of pre-diabetes.  Max told up “Although there are three main types of diabetes, there’s also a stage before diabetes and that’s called pre-diabetes. It’s noticed impaired glucose tolerance and it’s a condition where your blood “

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