Diabetes may be of five types instead of two and a revised look at the disease could predict and treat complications before they develop and save lives, says a new study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, a leading medical journal. Scandinavian researchers analysed 13,270 newly diagnosed diabetes patients in Sweden and Finland aged between 18 and 97. Using different measures like insulin resistance, insulin secretion, blood sugar levels, age, and the onset of illness, they identified five distinct types of diabetes — three serious and two milder forms. Of the three groups of patients in the serious category, the one with severe insulin resistance — wherein cells are unable to use insulin effectively — was more vulnerable to kidney disease. Another group of relatively young, insulin-deficient patients faced serious complications. The third group of patients had auto-immune diabetes corresponding to the original ‘type-1’ wherein the body does not make insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. One of the two milder types of diabetes identified affected about 40% of the patients who were old. This broader classification of diabetes could help doctors plan more personalised courses of treatment. The study found that many patients were not given the right treatment for the type of diabetes they were suffering from. However, the study has limitations. It does not say whether the five types of diabetes have different causes. It covered only Scandinavian patients. So a wider and more detailed study is suggested on Indian and Chinese patients. Senior researcher Leif Groop from the Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden said the study is an important step towards precision medicine in diabetes.
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