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Diabetes is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia, i.e. excess sugar in the blood and therefore too high a level of glucose (blood sugar). Discover in this article and in the video below everything there is to know about type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent): causes, symptoms, treatments, risk factors, screening…

Diabetes is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia, i.e. excess sugar in the blood and therefore too high a level of glucose (blood sugar). Discover in this article and in the video below everything there is to know about type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent): causes, symptoms, treatments, risk factors, screening…

Find this video in our playlist dedicated to the fundamentals of diabetes on our official Youtube channel.

Definition: What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder of the assimilation, use, and storage of sugars in the diet. This results in a high blood glucose level (also called blood sugar): hyperglycemia.

Foods are composed of lipids (fats), proteins (animal or vegetable proteins) and carbohydrates (sugars, starches). They provide most of the energy the body needs to function, pass through the intestine, and then enter the bloodstream.

When we eat, the sugar level in the blood increases, the carbohydrates are then transformed essentially into glucose. The pancreas detects an increase in blood sugar. The beta cells of the pancreas, grouped together in clusters called islets of Langerhans, secrete insulin. Insulin functions as a key, allowing glucose to enter the body’s cells: muscles, fat, and liver where it can be transformed and stored. Glucose then decreases in the blood.
Another hormone, glucagon, releases glucose stored in the liver, outside meals when energy levels drop or blood sugar levels drop,
It is the balance of these hormones that keep blood sugar levels stable in the body. In diabetes, this regulatory system does not work.

Examination and diagnosis: how to know if you have diabetes?
A blood glucose test is performed in a medical laboratory. Diabetes is established when fasting blood sugar is equal to or greater than 1.26 g/l twice or equal to or greater than 2 g/l at any time of the day.

Both types of diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, which affects about 6% of people with diabetes, and type 2 diabetes, which affects 92%. The other types of diabetes concern the remaining 2% (MODY, LADA or diabetes secondary to certain diseases or medication).

Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes or IDD)
Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as insulin-dependent diabetes (IDD), is usually found in young people: children, adolescents or young adults.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes
Symptoms are usually intense thirst, abundant urine, rapid weight loss. This diabetes results from the disappearance of beta cells from the pancreas resulting in a total insulin deficiency.

The body no longer recognizes these beta cells and destroys them (beta cells are destroyed by antibodies and immune cells, lymphocytes, made by the body): type 1 diabetes is said to be an autoimmune disease. Glucose that cannot enter the cells returns to the bloodstream. The glucose level in the blood then rises.

Causes of type 1 diabetes

It is not known why this destruction of the islets of Langherans occurs, why in some people and not in others. There is a genetic (familial) predisposition, but the other causes are not well known. The environment would also have a role.
Treatment of type 1 diabetes
Since the body no longer makes insulin at all, the only treatment currently available is insulin:

either in the form of injections (insulin injection with a syringe or pen),
an insulin pump (pump therapy), a portable or implantable device for continuous insulin delivery.

Diabetes and heredity

The weight of heredity differs between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. When one of the parents has type 2 diabetes, the risk of transmission to the offspring is around 40% and if both parents are affected, the risk increases to 70%. In type 1 diabetes, the risk is between 4% and 8%, specifically 8% if the father has diabetes, 4% if it is the mother (but 30% if both parents have diabetes). It is, therefore, useful to build a family tree to identify family members with diabetes and to know your genetic heritage.

Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40. However, the first cases of adolescents and young adults affected appear in France.

Overweight, obesity and lack of physical activity are the leading causes of type 2 diabetes in genetically predisposed individuals. Sneezy and painless, the development of type 2 diabetes can go unnoticed for a long time: it is estimated that on average 5 to 10 years elapse between the appearance of the first hyperglycemia and diagnosis.

In type 2 diabetes, formerly called non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM), the process is different from that of type 1 diabetes. Two anomalies are responsible for high blood sugar:

either the pancreas still makes insulin but not enough, compared to blood sugar this is insulinopenia ;
or this insulin acts badly, we speak then of insulin resistance.
Insulin can no longer regulate blood glucose levels and this resistance gradually depletes the pancreas, which eventually fails to produce enough insulin. These two mechanisms mean that glucose does not enter the body’s cells and remains in the bloodstream. Blood glucose levels are not regulated by insulin.

Causes of type 2 diabetes

There is not a specific cause, but a set of contributing factors:

a genetic origin: the family factor is quite predominant. A history of diabetes of the same type is often present in the family;
an unbalanced diet, lack of physical activity, overweight…
What is the treatment for type 2 diabetes?
It is initially treated by hygiene-dietetic measures, then oral and/or injectable antidiabetic treatments are rapidly used, whose effectiveness is optimal only if they are combined with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

As type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, after the gradual increase in antidiabetic drugs (therapeutic escalation), insulin injections will be offered as a complement to the patient when the insulin deficiency is too severe.

Diabetes complications
The goal of treatment in both types of diabetes is to normalize blood sugar levels: repeated and prolonged hyperglycemia causes long-term damage to nerves and blood vessels throughout the body. These are complications of diabetes that can result in blindness, foot damage that can lead to amputations, heart attacks, and strokes, erectile dysfunction or kidney failure.


The two main types of diabetes are different diseases but characterized by excess blood sugar and must be taken seriously and treated effectively. There are no “little diabetes” or more severe diabetes than others.

Despite medical research that advances every day, diabetes remains a disease that can be treated very well but cannot be cured. It is thus necessary, all one’s life, to supervise oneself, to maintain good eating habits, to practice a physical activity and to take its treatment regularly. So a diabetic can be a healthy patient! YES to the quality of life!


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