What Are the Different Types of Diabetes?

Types of diabetes: causes, identification, symptoms, and treatment.

Diabetes is a disease that can affect anyone, regardless of race, age, or sex. Currently, in the United States, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes (1 in 10). The five most common types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

This article will also discuss seven less common and rare types of diabetes, including maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY), neonatal diabetes, Wolfram syndrome, Alström syndrome, steroid induced diabetes, brittle diabetes, and type 3c diabetes.

There are four main categories for diabetes:

  1. Autoimmune 
  2. Metabolic
  3. Pregnancy
  4. Genetic and other (rare)

Autoimmune Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes and latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) are autoimmune diseases. With both of these types of diabetes, your immune system attacks the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. Once these cells are destroyed, the damage is permanent.

The cause of type 1 diabetes and LADA is unknown; however, there is a genetic component to autoimmune types of diabetes. This means that if your parents have type 1 or LADA, you will also be at a higher risk. Most often, an event, such as an illness, major life change, or stressor, will trigger the onset of these types of diabetes.

An important distinction between autoimmune disease and genetic disease is that autoimmune arises from a combination of a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger. A genetic disease is something you’re born with and doesn’t require any kind of trigger.

Type 1 diabetes and LADA are permanent and cannot be reversed. You will require injected insulin for life.

The main difference between type 1 diabetes and LADA is that type 1 diabetes progresses much quicker, whereas LADA can take years to progress. Therefore, LADA is essentially a slow-progressing form of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can be dangerous, especially for children. Often, children are misdiagnosed. Due to the rapid progression of the disease at onset, you can find yourself in a life-or-death situation very quickly. It is critical to seek immediate medical help if you suspect you or your child could have diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes can occur in adults, it is much more common for type 1 diabetes to develop during childhood or adolescence.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5-10% of total diabetes cases.

Type 1 diabetes is sometimes referred to as “insulin-dependent diabetes.” This is because your immune system has attacked the beta cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin. As a result, you will need to inject insulin by syringe, pen, or through an insulin pump. 

Learn more about type 1 diabetes:

Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA)

Sometimes, adults with LADA are misdiagnosed as having type 2 diabetes. Here’s what you need to know:

LADA is a slow-progressing form of type 1 diabetes; it generally takes years for LADA to progress. Instead of being called “insulin-dependent diabetes” like type 1 diabetes, LADA is sometimes called “latent diabetes.”

LADA’s symptoms may be subtle at first, and people often don’t know they have LADA until their beta cells start to function poorly and they develop the classic symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, people with LADA usually don’t require insulin treatment immediately. At onset, diet and lifestyle changes typically make a significant improvement in blood sugar management. This is because your body is still making some insulin during this period, as your beta cells have not been completely destroyed. This is also why LADA is often misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

A blood test is the only way to know if you have type 2 diabetes or LADA. If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and are between the ages of 20-40, we recommend asking your doctor to run a blood test for pancreatic antibodies. The presence of antibodies means you have LADA and not type 2 diabetes.

Learn more about LADA:

Metabolic Types of Diabetes

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are metabolic diseases. Until recently, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes were thought to be caused by eating an unhealthy diet, being overweight, and being inactive. However, researchers have discovered that the cause of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is much more complicated. While lifestyle choices can play a role in developing the disease, there appears to be a strong genetic component. In addition, the type of food we eat, particularly sugars and simple carbohydrates, has a contributing role to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Both metabolic types of diabetes are a result of insulin resistance. When you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin; it just cannot use insulin efficiently.


Prediabetes is the precursor to type 2 diabetes. However, it’s important to note that having prediabetes does not mean you are guaranteed to develop type 2 diabetes. By making diet and lifestyle changes, prediabetes can be cured. Most often, if someone does not make any changes, prediabetes will develop into type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Approximately 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. While type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, it can be reversed by treating the root cause: insulin resistance. By making diet and lifestyle changes that allow your body to become more sensitive to insulin, your blood sugar levels will normalize, often without the need for diabetes medications.

By reversing type 2 diabetes, you also can reduce or eliminate many of the complications that can arise from diabetes. Learn more about reversing type 2 diabetes.

Learn more about type 2 diabetes:

Diabetes During Pregnancy

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy and requires special treatment. Gestational diabetes is caused by hormones going out of balance during pregnancy. This causes your body to become insulin resistant and blood sugar levels to rise.

Gestational diabetes is treated with special care. Doctors will usually recommend medication or insulin injections, nutritional counseling, exercise, and regular blood sugar checks to keep mom and baby safe during pregnancy.

If you have gestational diabetes, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice and carefully monitor your blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled blood sugar during pregnancy can cause complications for both mother and baby.

Gestational diabetes is not chronic and will go away after giving birth. However, having gestational diabetes puts you at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Learn more about gestational diabetes:

Less Common Types of Diabetes

There are several other less common types of diabetes.

Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY)

MODY is a form of diabetes that can be inherited. MODY is not an autoimmune disease. Instead, it is caused by genetic mutations that affect how insulin works in the body. MODY has been linked to specific genes. There are two different types of MODY: MODY1 and MODY2. Both types present with similar symptoms but have different onset ages: children and adults, respectively. In general, treatment for MODY includes a combination of insulin therapy and oral medications. In the case of MODY-Type I, oral medications will be necessary indefinitely.

Neonatal Diabetes

Neonatal diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs prior to six months and mostly before four weeks. The signs and symptoms are generally the same as with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It is diagnosed through a blood test. Treatment for neonatal diabetes includes insulin therapy and check-ups from a doctor.

Neonatal diabetes is not an autoimmune disease. Instead, it is the result of a change in the gene that produces insulin. There are two types of neonatal diabetes – transient and permanent. As the name implies, transient neonatal diabetes usually resolves before the age of 12 months. Permanent neonatal diabetes is chronic and requires management for life, similar to type 1 diabetes.

Wolfram Syndrome

Wolfram syndrome is a rare inherited condition. Another name for Wolfram syndrome is DIDMOAD (diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus, optic atrophy, and deafness). Diabetes mellitus is often the first symptom of this condition, usually diagnosed in early childhood. Wolfram syndrome is rare, with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 500,000 people worldwide.

Alström Syndrome

Alström syndrome is a rare form of diabetes. It occurs in less than one percent of people with diabetes. Alström syndrome is an inherited genetic syndrome that affects many different body systems. One characteristic of alström syndrome is type 2 diabetes in infancy or early childhood. Alström Syndrome is very rare, with an estimated prevalence of less than 1 per 1,000,000 worldwide.

Steroid Induced Diabetes

Steroid induced diabetes usually occurs when someone takes high doses of corticosteroids for extended periods of time. The steroids change the balance of insulin and glucagon in the body, causing the person’s blood sugar level to rise. Symptoms include increased thirst, urination, and appetite. If steroid induced diabetes is not treated, it may lead to life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis. To prevent steroid induced diabetes, people taking corticosteroids should drink lots of water and get regular exercise.

Brittle Diabetes

Brittle diabetes has been linked to a deficiency in insulin or a reduced number of insulin receptors. Brittle diabetes can also lead to delayed treatment and increase the risk of developing comorbidities (another health problem occurring with another). The symptoms of brittle diabetes may vary from person to person, but they are usually very similar to those of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Brittle diabetes is estimated to affect 1 in 1,000 people with diabetes.

Type 3c Diabetes

Type 3c diabetes occurs when the pancreas is damaged or removed, most often from pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, or cystic fibrosis. This type of diabetes can be either mild or severe. Mild cases are treated similarly to type 2 diabetes, while more severe cases are treated similarly to type 1 diabetes.

The Bottom Line

Although there are many different types of diabetes, most of the symptoms and complications are the same. To learn more about diabetes, read our comprehensive guide on diabetes.