Diabetes consists of a number of diseases all of which have to do with insulin. Either the body is unable to produce insulin or it can’t use the insulin it produces. This disease leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves. It has long been established that diabetes falls into two categories: type 1 and type 2. However, researchers in Sweden and Finland think that diabetes classification is much more complex than originally thought. What they uncovered could open the gates to a new array of personalized medicine for this condition.
People with type 1 diabetes have faulty immune systems as they mistakenly attack and kill the beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for insulin production.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use the insulin released or can’t make insulin altogether. Thus, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being converted into energy.
The new study relied on data from 15 thousand patients from across five groups in Sweden and Finland. After analyzing the people, researchers identified five clusters of patients with diabetes using six standard measurement tools.
The clusters were divided into three severe and two mild forms of the disease.
The first cluster was a severe autoimmune form of the disease that occurs much in the same way as type 1. This form was found to occur in young and healthy people whose immunological disease left them unable to produce insulin.
The second cluster was severe insulin-deficient diabetes where patients initially had similar symptoms to those in the first cluster. While they struggle to produce insulin, their immune system was not at fault.
The third cluster was an insulin-resistant form of the disease where the patients were generally overweight and producing insulin but their body was not using it accordingly.
The fourth cluster was a mild form of the disease related to insulin. This variant was found to occur in very overweight people but their metabolisms resembled those in the third cluster.
Cluster five consisted of people with mild age-related diabetes. Patients developed the condition when they were significantly older than in other groups.
The study was published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal.
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