The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

High blood sugar is the hallmark indicator of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and in both forms of diabetes the hormone insulin is a focus of attention.

Insulin, manufactured in the pancreas, is responsible for shuttling blood sugar, or glucose, into our cells for fuel. If insulin is low, absent, or not utilized properly by the body, the fuel we need to function accumulates in our blood stream, causing problems.

Those with type 1 diabetes have very little or no insulin in their system because their pancreas manufactures little or none of it. People with type 2 diabetes produce some, but not enough insulin, or their body may not respond to insulin’s effects.

Type 1 Diabetes

The onset of type 1 diabetes is typically sudden and the diagnosis clear-cut. Individuals go to their doctor or an emergency room complaining of intense thirst, hunger, increase in urination, blurry vision, weight loss (even if they are eating more), a higher incidence of infections, and pain or tingling in their extremities; hospitalization is sometimes necessary.

Formerly, type 1 diabetes was called “juvenile diabetes” since nearly three-fourths of diagnoses occur before the age of 30, or was called “insulin-dependent diabetes,” because taking insulin daily is necessary for survival and well-being. Five to ten percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have this type.

Individuals with type 1 diabetes, many of them young children, must check their blood sugar level several times each day and administer insulin by injection or with an insulin pump. Barring a cure or treatment innovations, they will do this the rest of their life. Nutrition and exercise are usually key elements of the diabetes management plan as well.

Even with good blood sugar management, type 1 individuals are at risk for developing diabetes-related health issues (e.g., vision or kidney problems, neuropathy).

Type 2 Diabetes

Though symptoms are much the same as with type 1, the onset of type 2 diabetes is usually gradual. Some people are unaware they have a blood sugar problem until told by their doctor after a checkup.

Type 2 used to be called “adult onset diabetes.” However, during the past 20 years an increasing numbers of kids and adolescents have been diagnosed as type 2. Ninety percent of diabetics have a type 2 diagnosis; eighty percent of those individuals are recommended to lose weight.

Type 2 diabetes runs from mild to severe. People can sometimes control their blood sugar by eating a healthy diet low in simple sugars, and exercising regularly. Testing and keeping a record of blood sugar levels is necessary for good glucose management. When diet and exercise are insufficient oral or injectable medications are prescribed.

Undiagnosed, under-controlled, or severe type 2 diabetes may lead to diabetes-related health complications.

Type 1.5 Diabetes?

If you hear someone talk about diabetes type 1.5 they are speaking of LADA, or latent autoimmune diabetes. This illness is more common in people over 35 and is frequently misdiagnosed as diabetes type 2. It occurs when something slowly damages the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. The onset of LADA is gradual and treatment with diet, exercise, and oral medications works for a time, but taking insulin is eventually required.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: Donnie Ray Jones / flickr creative commons

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