There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. However there are several other types, all of which are really variants of the first two types.
In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce any insulin or, at best, very little. The only way these diabetics can survive is by taking regular shots of insulin … often several times a day … which is why it is often called insulin-dependent diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is also called childhood onset diabetes because it usually shows up during childhood or the teenage years.
In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does produce insulin which is released into the bloodstream, where its job is to enable the glucose released by the digestive process to enter muscle cells. The problem arises at the cell door, so as to speak.
When the insulin arrives at a cell it has trouble attaching itself to a receptor. So it cannot induce the cell membrane to open and allow glucose to enter the cell.
The condition in which insulin is unable to attach itself to cell receptors is known as insulin resistance.
Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes. It can be beaten provided the diabetic can find a way to unblock the receptors. The most effective (and safest) way to do this is to reduce dietary fat by changing the types of food eaten. Medications can also be used.
Gestational diabetes is similar to type 2 diabetes, except that it only affects women during pregnancy and then clears up afterwards. It indicates, however, that the woman affected is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
There are other, rather rare, forms of diabetes.
Congenital diabetes is due to genetic defects in how the body secretes insulin. Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes affects people with cystic fibrosis. Steroid diabetes is a form of diabetes which is induced by high doses of glucocorticoids.