Diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational – includes a free patient information PDF!

Download the free patient handout PDF near the end of this article!

insulin bottle and syringe drawingPeople with Diabetes have high blood sugar because their body doesn’t make insulin or their body doesn’t respond to the insulin they do make. Insulin is a hormone that controls how the body turns sugar from food into energy.

There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational. If diabetes is not treated it can cause serious health problems with the heart, nerves, eyes, and kidneys.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type I Diabetes is found mostly in children and young adults. People with Type I Diabetes do not make enough insulin in their bodies and must have insulin shots every day to make sure they have enough insulin so that the food they eat can turn into energy.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Someone may have Type 1 Diabetes if they have any of these symptoms and are a child or young adult:

  • Urinate often
  • Very thirsty or very hungry
  • loss of weight
  • Very tired or weak
  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble sleeping

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is found mostly in people over 45, but is showing up in younger patients because of unhealthy diets and lack of regular exercise. People with Type 2 Diabetes either cannot make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin they do make very well.

You are at risk for Type 2 Diabetes if you:

  • Are older than 45 years of age
  • Are overweight and/or do not exercise regularly
  • Are related to someone with diabetes, such as a parent, brother or sister
  • Gave birth to a baby that weighed 9 pounds or more or had gestational diabetes while pregnant
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Any of the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes (listed above)
  • Dry mouth
  • Cuts or bruises that heal slowly
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Skin, gum or bladder infections that keep coming back

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes is when a pregnant woman, who has never had diabetes before, has high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational Diabetes can sometimes turn into Type 2 Diabetes.


Before developing Type 2 Diabetes, most people have blood sugar levels that are higher than the normal range. This is called pre-diabetes because these higher blood sugar levels are a sign that you will develop Type 2 Diabetes if your blood sugar levels remain high.

It is possible to prevent Type 2 Diabetes from developing by lowering your blood sugar levels. Health care providers usually recommend getting to a healthy weight through a healthy diet and a moderate exercise program, like walking.

How can I treat my Diabetes?

The most important thing you can do to treat your Diabetes is to check your blood sugar every day, and to keep your blood sugar in the normal range.

How can I keep my blood sugar in the normal range?

You can print copies of this PDF handout for your patients, to reinforce what you have told them.
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Eat a healthy diet

  • Do eat 3 meals a day, at about the same time every day.
  • Do eat a variety of healthy foods, including foods like whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
  • Don’t skip a meal.

Take your medicine

  • Oral medicines (taken by mouth) can make your body produce more insulin or help your body use the insulin it makes.
  • Some people need to add insulin to their bodies. Insulin is injected with a needle.

Avoid Low Blood Sugar

  • Low blood sugar is from your blood having too much insulin, which won’t happen if you are eating regular healthy meals, taking your medicine, and staying at a healthy weight with regular exercise.

What lifestyle changes should I make?

Quit smoking

  • Smoking increases the risk of complications such as heart disease, stroke, and circulation issues.

Maintain a healthy weight with exercise

  • Keep a healthy weight. Your health care provider can tell you what a healthy weight is for your height and body type.
  • Choose any activity you enjoy, and try to exercise 4 to 6 days a week for 30 minutes or longer.

See your health care provider

  • See your health care provider as scheduled and get an eye exam once a year.

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these warning signs:

  • You start feeling very thirsty and are urinating more than usual
  • You feel sick to your stomach or vomit more than once
  • Your breathing becomes deeper and faster than usual
  • Your breath smells sweet and/or you experience tingling around the mouth
  • You feel uncoordinated, shaky, weak, drowsy, confused, dizzy, start to tremble, or see blurry or double.
Used with permission from the Community Health Association of Mountain/Plains States (CHAMPS)