What You Need to Know About Diabetes

From the symptoms of each kind to the lesser-known type 1.5, here are the facts about this disease.

Food Network’s Paula Deen recently announced she has type 2 diabetes. Photograph courtesy of Deen’s Facebook page.

With Southern cook Paula Deen’s recent announcement that she has suffered from type 2 diabetes for the past three years, criticism of her cuisine and confusion about the disease has understandably run rampant.

Diabetes is “confusing, at best,” says local expert Ann Bartlett, who has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was five years old. “It’s a disease [whose types have] very different characteristics, but at the same time, as we learn more with research, they all seem to be flooding together.”

In fact, not many people know that there is a form of diabetes that falls between type 1 and type 2, or that pregnant women can develop the disease even if they never suffered from it previously.

To help you understand the symptoms and treatments, we broke down the facts about the four types of the disease.

Type 1

Who it affects: People with type 1 produce little to no insulin in their bodies. Two of the largest growing populations with type 1 are those in the 25 to 35 age bracket and children 18 months and under, which is why it used to be called juvenile diabetes, says Bartlett. Only 5 percent of people with diabetes have this autoimmune disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Symptoms: Increased thirst, loss of appetite, increased urination, and unexpected weight loss. “People typically think they have the flu, since they feel rundown, lousy, and not hungry,” says Bartlett. At worst, type 1 diabetes can lead to kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy (damage to the eye that can lead to blindness), and neuropathy. If you experience these symptoms, visit your health-care professional for a diagnosis, to decrease your chances of becoming vulnerable to diabetic complications.

Treatment: Type 1 diabetics must receive insulin injections and closely monitor their food intake daily.

Type 2

Who it affects: The most common form of diabetes, type 2 typically affects those ages 50 to 60 years old, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. People with this type do not produce enough insulin, or their bodies have become resistant to insulin. Typically, poor eating habits and obesity can lead to developing type 2.

Symptoms: Those suffering from type 2 diabetes may not show symptoms for several years, says Bartlett. They’ll feel tired, hungry, and thirsty, and have an increased urge to urinate. Type 2 diabetics may also feel pain or numbness in their hands or feet.

Treatment: Those with type 2 can treat their diabetes with exercise and a healthy diet. For medication, oral insulin is the most common option, though injections are available, too.

Type 1.5 or LADA (Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults)

Who it affects: This lesser-known form of diabetes typically affects those 25 to 35 years old and 10 percent of the diabetes population. Years ago, those over 18 who were diagnosed with type 1 were labeled as having type 2. This confusion led to the development of type 1.5, explains Bartlett.

Symptoms: As with type 2, LADA symptoms are slow-moving and not as severe as with type 1. They include extreme thirst, frequent urination, and weight loss.

Treatment: Typically, doctors have type 1.5 patients start immediately on insulin injections. However, treatment and management techniques are still under review, since the diagnosis can often be inaccurate at first.


Who it affects: Approximately 18 percent of pregnant women develop this form of diabetes around their 24th week, according to the American Diabetes Association. It develops if a woman has high blood sugar levels during the pregnancy and the body is not able to make and use all the insulin needed.

Symptoms: If not treated properly, gestational diabetes can affect the baby in the womb. The baby’s pancreas makes extra insulin and thus more energy that will be stored as fat, leading to what is typically known as “fat baby.” These newborns are likely to develop breathing problems and are at risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Treatment: All pregnant women should be tested for gestational diabetes. If the disease develops, it is essential to monitor weight gain and blood sugar levels, and control high blood pressure, among other things. Sometimes taking insulin is recommended.

Ann Bartlett writes about diabetes and health practices at Health Central, and is the owner of Body in Balance Center in Alexandria.