Type I diabetes
Type I diabetes means that the body produces no, or very little, insulin, which is the blood sugar-regulating hormone released when the blood contains high glucose levels, for instance after a meal.
In Type I diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the pancreatic cells which produce insulin, causing an insulin deficiency. The symptoms that emerge, such as increased fatigue, increased thirst and larger urine quantities, often appear first when some 70-80% of the cells have been destroyed. The reason as to why the body immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells is not known with certainty.
While the emergence of Type I diabetes is unclear, some studies show that there is a hereditary component. Developing Type I diabetes is not dependent on diet or weight. It is estimated that today, approximately 50,000 persons in Sweden have Type I diabetes1. In cases of diabetes Type I, the high blood sugar levels are probably a major cause for the emergence of neuropathy.
Type II diabetes
Type II diabetes used to be called ”adult-onset diabetes”, and indicates that the body’s ability to absorb insulin is impaired. There are two primary causes for this:
The pancreas’ insulin production may be normal, but the body tissue insulin receptors are impaired. This means that more insulin is required to force the cell to accept the blood sugar.
- The pancreas’ function may be reduced, resulting in the body not being able to produce enough insulin when the blood sugar levels rise, for instance after a meal.
Research has shown that Type II diabetes is more hereditary than Type I diabetes. In addition, one’s personal habits, such as diet and exercise, are thought to play a major part in developing Type II diabetes. There are vast differences between different countries and cultures. Diabetes is often more prevalent in cultures going through phases of heavy urbanisation. Often, urbanisation will also bring about changes in personal habits, changes which promote the development of Type II diabetes.
In Sweden, approximately 350,000 have Type II diabetes2. The real figure is higher, as many live with the disease without knowing it. The risk of developing Type II diabetes increases with age; it is estimated that some ten per cent of the over-75 population have Type II diabetes. In cases of Type II diabetes, neuropathy is caused not only by high blood sugar levels but through a number of interacting factors.
People with Type I diabetes need life-long treatment in the form of regular insulin injections or an insulin pump.
In cases of Type II diabetes, the disease can often be suppressed by changing one’s diet and increasing the amount of everyday exercise. When the body weight decreases, the insulin production will often once more be sufficient, and the blood sugar values will be normalised.
Increased physical activity will also improve the sensibility of the cells to react to the body’s insulin. Some people may also need drugs that stimulate the insulin production or increase the receptor insulin sensibility, so as to be able to keep the blood sugar on a more even level.