Food & Nutrition

What are the different types of diabetes?

Approximately 3.61 million Australians have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Learn the difference between them.
Published 31 May 2018

Australia's fastest growing chronic disease


Do you have a family history of diabetes? Has your doctor told you your blood glucose is too high? Or have you already been diagnosed and are looking for help? Gaining a greater understanding of diabetes and tapping into the best tools and resources for managing your condition is the first step to living a long and happy life.

Approximately 3.61 million Australians have diabetes or pre-diabetes and it’s a major health priority area. According to Diabetes NSW it is Australia’s fastest-growing chronic disease with one person diagnosed every five minutes. The good news is there is extensive support for people living with diabetes and management strategies continue to become available.


What are the different types of diabetes?

One of the first steps is to understand the type of diabetes you, or the person you are caring for, has been diagnosed with. This will give you a deeper understanding of what is going on within the body and how even small tweaks to eating and exercise habits can add up to big health rewards.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood because the body is not producing enough insulin or not using insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone needed for glucose to enter cells and be converted to energy. If glucose cannot enter cells fast enough it builds up in the bloodstream, causing high blood glucose or ‘sugar’ levels (BGLs).

Over time, high BGLs can cause health complications. As most glucose comes from food, what you eat and the rate at which your body uses glucose can play a big part in managing diabetes.


Type 1 diabetes

An autoimmune disease which causes the pancreas to no longer produce insulin. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and currently requires insulin injections for life.


Type 2 diabetes

The pancreas is still producing some insulin but the body is not able to use it efficiently. This type is far more common and represents 85–90 per cent of all cases diagnosed. Lifestyle factors such as being overweight, unhealthy eating, smoking and lack of physical activity can contribute to developing this form of the disease. If identified early, type 2 diabetes may be managed with a healthy lifestyle and weight management, delaying the need for tablets and/or insulin injections.


Gestational diabetes

Occurs in mothers during pregnancy and disappears after birth. Up to 50 per cent of women with gestational diabetes may develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years.



Can also be referred to as ‘insulin resistance’. This occurs when BGLs are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and achieving a healthy weight can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.


What are the health complications with diabetes?

Left untreated, diabetes is a serious disease that can cause:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Kidney disease and failure
  • Neuropathy or peripheral nerve disease
  • Eyesight problems (retinopathy) and blindness
  • Serious problems in the feet, and limb amputation


Fortunately, there is loads of information on the best lifestyle approaches for managing diabetes and preventing serious complications. Once equipped with knowledge of your condition and management strategies, you will be better able to work with your diabetes healthcare provider to manage your symptoms.


Research has shown adults with pre-diabetes who follow the WW program can achieve better weight-loss and BGL control than those trying to do it on their own.