But a new study suggests that there may actually be five different types of the disease-some of which may be more risky than others.
Diabetes - or uncontrolled blood sugar levels - is normally split into type 1 and type 2. Clusters 3 and 4 can be thought of as falling between the two extremes. The study will help to understand diabetes better in youth and children.
Dr. V. Mohan, Director of Madras Diabetes Research Foundation explained that MODY can be diagnosed only through genetic testing.
Starts at 60 has reached out to the researchers for further comment.
Where did the story come from?
At present, diabetes is classified into two main forms, both of which have links to genetics.
What kind of research was this?
In people with type 1 diabetes, which most often appears in childhood, the body can not make insulin - a hormone that helps glucose get into cells.
Having diabetes means that a person's blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high.
And an estimated 550,000 people have Type 2 but are unaware of it. Their bodies make insulin but don't use it the right way. They had to be prescribed insulin injections for treatment (in 42 percent patients).
What did the research involve?
For this study, the team looked at All New Diabetics in Scania (ANDIS) cohort comprising of 8,980 newly diagnosed Swedish patients of diabetes. They were followed up after an average of 4 years. It included 844 people.
Diabetes is rapidly becoming Britain's fastest growing health crisis, with the number of affected patients having doubled in 20 years to 3.7million.
It said: 'A refined classification could provide a powerful tool to individualise treatment regimens and identify individuals with increased risk of complications at diagnosis'.
GADAs are antibodies linked with what is known as late-onset autoimmune diabetes (LADA).
They were able to analyse key measurements of the disease, as well as blood composition and genetic features.
What were the basic results?
In the report, the authors identified these groups as clusters. About 6% of the people in the ANDIS study had SAID.
The second cluster was patients who showed insulin deficiency and were GADA negative. Identified in 18% of the people in ANDIS.
This final cluster sees patients who developed diabetes at significantly older ages than other groups, with the condition taking a milder form in this case.
Researchers then distinguished 5 distinct clusters that differ from today's classification: 3 severe and 2 mild forms of the disease.
Cluster 3: Called "severe insulin-resistant diabetes", this form occurred in people who were overweight and had high insulin resistance, meaning their bodies were making insulin, but their cells were not responding to it.
How did the researchers interpret the results?
The findings might help to better tailor early treatment for patients, and might be a first step towards precision medicine, say the researchers.
Diabetes is now divided into type 1 diabetes (approximately 10%), type 2 diabetes (85-90%) and several less common diseases like latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) and secondary diabetes.
The most common was one of the more moderate forms, seen in the elderly and affecting 39-47% of the patients. The new study, she said, could help lead scientists towards a diabetes cure by changing the way they approach future study.