Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune cells, designed to fight infection, turn against the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes accounts for as much as 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States. It develops most often in children and young adults, but can appear at any age.
Insulin is necessary for bringing glucose (sugar) into cells and when glucose remains in the blood stream the results may include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, blurred vision, and extreme fatigue. Over the long term, elevated glucose levels affect all of the blood vessels in the body leading to an increased risk for blindness, amputations, kidney disease requiring dialysis, stroke and heart attack.
The past 30 years of diabetes research has focused on two areas: immune therapy and beta cell regeneration. Studies are currently underway to show that both immune therapy and beta regeneration therapy can lead to insulin independence in humans.
The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. About 90 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. This form of diabetes is most often associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.
Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents, especially among African American, Mexican American, and Pacific Islander youth.
When type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the pancreas is usually producing some insulin, but not enough and after several years, the insulin production decreases further. The result is the same as for type 1 diabetes—glucose builds up in the blood vessels and can result in diminished blood flow to the eyes, kidneys, nerves of the feet, brain and heart.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop gradually. Their onset is not as sudden as in type 1 diabetes. Symptoms may include fatigue, frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, and slow healing of wounds or sores. Some people have no symptoms.