November is American Diabetes Month, a great time to learn about a disease that affects over 30 million Americans.
Let’s start with the basics: Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body regulates blood sugar. There are two types of diabetes that share similar early symptoms, including extreme thirst, weight loss, frequent urination and nausea. People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, which is how the body regulates blood sugar levels. People with Type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin or don’t produce enough of it.
Type 1 diabetes is commonly found in children and teens, but it can develop at any age. As a result, it’s commonly misdiagnosed in adults. A recent study by the University of Exeter in England found a third of adults over the age of 30 with Type 1 diabetes were initially misdiagnosed as having Type 2 diabetes.
Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May is a notable example. She was initially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and was treated with lifestyle changes and medications that did not work. She was re-tested and found to have Type 1 diabetes.
These misdiagnoses are critical because the two types of diabetes have different treatment options, and it’s important to treat each type correctly.
Type 1 diabetes is managed using self-provided insulin injections to provide the body with the insulin it can’t produce. Type 2 diabetes is treated with tablets and weight loss, which often helps the body produce insulin on its own again.
An evaluation by your physician that includes a medical history, a physical exam and lab work is the best way to determine what type is present and to ensure you receive the correct counseling and treatment.