What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

9 Jul

Do you know the difference between the two forms of diabetes – commonly called Type 1 and Type 2?

type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes

First, let’s explain what diabetes is. Diabetes Mellitus is a disease which develops when your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is consistently too high. Blood glucose is a necessary component of your blood, as it provides the main source of energy for your body’s cells. It’s derived from the food you eat, like bread, pasta, fruit, some vegetables, rice, potatoes, and cereal, and is also manufactured in your liver and in your muscles.

For blood glucose to be used properly by your cells, you need a hormone called insulin, which is manufactured in your pancreas (located between your stomach and your spine). Insulin acts as a kind of escort for the blood glucose, aiding its absorption by your muscle, liver, and fat cells. It’s absolutely necessary for the conversion of glucose into energy. When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin into your bloodstream. The more sugar that enters your bloodstream, the more insulin your pancreas makes.

When your body can’t make enough insulin, or if your cells become resistant to the insulin, the blood glucose can’t find its way into your cells. As a result, the glucose in your blood isn’t turned into energy, and remains in your bloodstream. This is what causes diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes, typically develops in young people as early as 3 years old, but it can also appear in adults. Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, most commonly develops in those over 35. However, in the last twenty years, an alarming spike has been seen in children developing the disease.

The differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and is not caused by diet or lifestyle.  It appears in roughly 10% of all of the people with diabetes. In Type 1, your body makes no insulin or has trouble making insulin, because your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas which manufacture it. If you are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, you’ll have to take insulin for the rest of your life, either through injections or an insulin pump.

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Type 2 diabetes usually begins with “insulin resistance”, which occurs when your cells have difficulty using insulin to convert glucose into energy. The pancreas is asked to produce more insulin, which at first it does – there is sufficient insulin in the blood. But over time, as the cells become even more resistant to insulin, the pancreas can’t make enough, especially right after meals when blood sugar spikes. Then it becomes impossible to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance can be caused by eating too many foods high in sugar, but also has a strong genetic link. Eighty percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Symptoms [of Type 1 or Type 2] include increased urination, thirst or dry mouth, hunger, weight loss despite normal or increased eating, blurred vision, frequent or continuous infections and tingling or pain in the hands, feet or both.”

With either form of diabetes, you’ll need to balance nutrition with exercise and if necessary, weight management (but plenty of slim people develop either form of diabetes). It’s also essential that you regularly check your blood sugar multiple times each day. With Type 2, it may not be possible to reduce your blood sugar sufficiently with diet and exercise, and oral medicine, including insulin, may be required.

If you’re diagnosed with either form of diabetes, it’s essential that you regularly see your family physician, an endocrinologist, and a podiatrist. Many symptoms of diabetic injury are seen first in the feet and toes, and if identified early, can be treated and resolved. If undiscovered, diabetic injury can include Charcot Foot, Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, and other conditions, which may result in partial or complete amputation of a toe, foot, or leg.

To learn more about controlling your diabetes, see all of our posts, or these:

Add yogurt to your diet to fight diabetes

Fried foods may increase your risk of diabetes

Free smartphone apps for diabetics

How to prevent diabetes

Hidden sugars in your food

Drink More coffee if you have diabetes

Walk off your diabetes

Holiday meal plans for diabetics

Eat a hearty breakfast to help control your diabetes

The symptoms of prediabetes

Cakes and cookies actually make you hungrier

Can too much red meat cause diabetes?


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