Diabetes can be broadly classified into two main forms, referred to as type 1 or type 2 and each with its own particular characteristics. 

These differences are summarised below and highlight that type 1 diabetes is essentially associated with initial onset during a young age, hence the reason it is also commonly referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes is in fact less prevalent than type 2. The 1995 Australian National Health Survey indicated that 430,700 Australians had self-reported diabetes. Of these about 80,000 (19%) had type 1 diabetes. It is also suggested that for every diagnosed type 2, there is one other undiagnosed type 2.

Based on that estimate the actual proportion of people with type 1 diabetes is only about 10% of the total diabetes population.

In some individuals diabetes may result indirectly from an associated medical condition or use of certain drugs. For example hyperglycaemia may be secondary to certain pancreatic and endocrine diseases, drugs, chemicals, infections and genetic defects. Such occurrences however are uncommon.

Symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes

Common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes:

  • excessive desire to drink
  • frequent passage of urine
  • increased fatigue or lethargy
  • severe irritation and itching
  • excessive hunger
  • blurred vision
  • weight loss

Type 1 diabetes

Interesting facts about type 1 diabetes include:

  • abrupt onset
  • normally less than 20 years of age
  • symptoms at diagnosis
  • autoimmune mediated
  • no Beta cell function
  • no insulin production
  • insulin therapy required
  • normally no family history
  • not usually overweight.

Type 2 diabetes

Interesting facts about type 2 diabetes include:

  • gradual onset
  • normally 35 years of age or older
  • frequently no symptoms
  • erratic Beta cell function
  • insulin normal or raised
  • oral drugs may be used
  • family history common
  • usually overweight.

Diabetes mellitus 

Diabetes mellitus is characterised by an abnormality of glucose metabolism, which causes elevated glucose levels (hyperglycaemia) in both the blood and the urine. This failure of the human body to properly handle glucose, results directly from decreased insulin secretion, action or both. Insulin, produced by beta cells in the pancreas, allows the body's cells to use glucose as an energy fuel. When this cannot occur the body attempts to introduce more fuel (food) and starts to use alternate sources, such as stored fats. Consequently blood glucose levels rapidly rise and potentially poisonous by-products (ketones) are released from the accompanying and extensive fat metabolism. 

Unchecked this sequence of events can finally lead to a life-threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis. 

Management of diabetes

Management of diabetes attempts to restore blood glucose levels to near-normal using combinations of diet, exercise, drugs and insulin therapy.