A group of Scandinavian scientists proposed that people with diabetes could expect improved treatments if we divided the condition into five separate types, instead of the two we have now.
The fifth most common cause of death worldwide is diabetes mellitus, or, as it is more commonly known, diabetes type 2. The abundance of food and lack of activity that our modern way of life dictates turned diabetes into a “disease of civilization” which affects, according to some estimates, a whopping 415 million people all over the world.
Currently, we differentiate diabetes into two types: insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1) and non-insulin dependent diabetes (type 2). However, a study published in The Lancet indicates that diabetics would benefit if we start categorizing diabetes in five distinct groups, which would lead to a more personalized and targeted treatment with, hopefully, better outcomes for the patients. Here is how the researchers proposed the five types of diabetes would be defined:
Type 1: severe autoimmune diabetes characterized by insulin deficiency and the presence of autoantibodies.
Type 2: severe insulin-deficient diabetes that manifests the same as type 1, but without the presence of autoantibodies.
Type 3: severe insulin-resistant diabetes that occurs in overweight people and is characterized by the inability to use insulin effectively.
Type 4: mild obesity-related diabetes that affects obese individuals and displays less severe symptoms than the first three types.
Type 5: mild age-related diabetes is, as the name suggests, most common with the elderly and is similar to type 4 diabetes.
By highlighting that diabetes has more nuances and variants than we previously thought, researchers are hoping to help prevent some severe health issues that come as a part of the package with the diabetic disease, such as vision loss or kidney disease. Their analysis showed that type 3 diabetes was most linked to renal diseases while type 2 often lead to retinopathy. By knowing which precise type of diabetes you have, you can seek treatment that would prevent the connected complications, as well.
The study shows great promise for the future of diabetes treatment: although it doesn’t reveal underlying causes for each of the types and if, for example, milder types might evolve in one of the severe forms, it sets a foundation for better understanding of diabetes and further research into more effective treatments.
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