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Which diabetes type?

Often, the diabetes type can be determined based on the symptoms, person's age at the time of diagnosis, clinical picture, family history, basic blood tests and response to treatment. Sometimes it can also be difficult to determine the accurate type.

Once blood sugar levels exceeding the threshold value of diabetes are identified, it is the doctor’s task to determine the exact type of diabetes. It may be obvious on the basis of the preliminary information, patient history, clinical picture and symptoms. The diagnosis can usually be confirmed in a laboratory with more detailed examination of the pancreas. Further investigation is needed particularly if the symptoms and risk factors are not clearly identifiable and, for example, it may be one of the rarer types of diabetes. In some cases the type may also remain unclear or change over time when more information is gained.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed in younger people, and the symptoms of high blood sugar arising from insulin deficiency are often obvious. In insulin deficiency, the blood is tested for ketone or “acids” in addition to high blood sugar. In large quantities, they acidify the body and may result in acidosis i.e. ketoacidosis. In addition, blood tests look for antibodies typical of an autoimmune disease and they may also examine the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes normally occurs in adults. If a person diagnosed with diabetes as an adult is abdominally obese, has a metabolic syndrome, has a close relative with type 2 diabetes and their blood sugar level has been gradually increasing, they probably have type 2 diabetes. If the blood sugar level is remedied by lifestyle changes and drug therapy, there is normally no need for special examinations.

Despite its prevalence, there are no clear criteria for type 2 diabetes. It is diagnosed by ruling out other possibilities with sufficient certainty, first among them insulin-dependent diabetes and diabetes resulting from other conditions.

Updated 30.9.2023