Diabetes can be divided into five different groups; here's everything to know

Kristen Gonzales
March 4, 2018

Diabetes patients can be divided into five subgroups with different disease progressions and risks of complications, according to new research that differs from the traditional two-type classification.

However, this study alone is not sufficient to lead to changes in diabetes treatment guidelines, as it was only based on groups of diabetes patients in Scandinavia. One reason is that the study only focused on Scandinavians, and diabetes is a disease that's known to vary among populations.

Most people with diabetes - between 85% and 90% - have type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin they have does not work properly.

Diabetes is now classified into Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

The 5 subtypes are genetically distinct with no mutations, concluding that the types are not different stages of the same disease.

Finnish and Swedish researchers categorized patients into five separate "clusters" that show important differences in patient traits and risk of diabetic difficulties.

Some of the overlapping features include the fact that clusters 3, 4 and 5 were prescribed similar anti-diabetic treatment and they responded well. Retinopathy risk was highest in cluster 2, which was insulin deficient.

Scientists from Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden and the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland said the five types need different treatments. The report comes from Emma Ahlqvist, PhD, of Lund University in Sweden, and her team and is published in the latest issue of the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. It hits people when they are young and have a healthy weight, and as an immune disease deprives them of the ability to produce insulin. In type 1, the more severe type that accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diabetes cases, the immune system destroys cells that produce insulin.

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For their study, researchers assessed recently-diagnosed patients in Sweden and Finland and focused on six main measurements that reflect aspects of diabetes and ways to monitor patients.

They also looked at various patient characteristics, complication rates - such as kidney and diabetic eye problems - and use of medications.

The study results suggest that a new classification system could help identify people at high risk of complications and better guide doctors in their choice of treatments, the authors wrote.

People with diabetes have excessively high blood glucose, or blood sugar, which comes from food.

Experts warn Britain is sitting on a diabetes time bomb with the number of prescriptions for Type 2 sufferers rising by a third in five years to 35 million. Clusters 1 and 2, for example, had a higher HbA1c at diagnosis, with poor control persisting during follow-up.

Diabetes influences around one of every 11 grown-ups worldwide and expands the risk of heart assault, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and appendage removal. New research confirms that in general it's most commonly diagnosed in the young. While no cure exists, and any changes to current treatment are likely a good way off, exploring the root causes and various manifestations of diabetes is a positive step forward for the development of new medicines that could in future reduce or prevent some of the most serious complications from arising.

In the ANDIS study, blood samples were taken from people at registration, allowing the researchers to analyse their DNA and blood chemistry.

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