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Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can have severe health consequences over time if they’re not managed correctly.
But the two types are quite different from one another in how they present, what causes them, and their risk factors.
This guide will cover the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as their symptoms, risk factors, and tests that can be used to determine whether you may have either of these conditions.
Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes
Not everyone who has diabetes has type 2. In fact, many don’t know they have type 1 because they’ve never had type 2 to begin with.
When it comes to living a healthy life with diabetes, understanding what differentiates one from another is critical.
Here’s everything you need to know about type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes.
What are Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
Sometimes referred to as insulin-dependent or non-insulin dependent diabetes, type 1 and type 2 describe how your body makes use of insulin (or doesn’t).
Insulin is a hormone that keeps your blood sugar at normal levels by signaling fat cells, muscle cells, liver cells, etc., to absorb glucose for energy or storage.
In people with type 1 diabetes, something happens to prevent their pancreas from making any insulin, this is called an autoimmune disease.
In people with type 2 diabetes, however, their bodies become resistant to insulin over time because they’ve been making it in excess.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas still produces some insulin but not enough for your body needs, the symptoms aren’t caused by a loss of ability but an abundance of it.
Both types of diabetes have similar symptoms, including
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss.
The difference is that in type 1 diabetes , these symptoms occur abruptly without warning (often during sleep) whereas in type 2 diabetes , you may have some warning signs.
Many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes after many years.
Both types are treatable, but knowing your risk factors for each can help prevent further complications.
If you think you’re at risk of developing either condition, talk to your doctor about screening tests.
Type 2 diabetes can occur if you’re overweight, or obese.
Even with a normal body mass index (BMI), risk factors can include: older age, family history of diabetes, previous gestational diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), acanthosis nigricans (dark skin patches that appear on your neck, armpits or groin area).
On top of that certain ethnicities seem to be at an increased risk including African-Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans.
The best way to minimize these risks is by staying active, eating a healthy diet low in sugar and fat, maintaining a healthy weight and checking up with your doctor regularly.
You should also know that there are some complications associated with type 2 diabetes like Heart Disease, Neuropathy, Kidney Failure and Eye Damage.*
To diagnose type 1 diabetes, a doctor will perform blood tests to measure blood sugar levels.
To diagnose type 2 diabetes, doctors may use one or more of these tests: glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C), fasting plasma glucose (FPG), or oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).
The A1C is a long-term average of your blood sugar levels, FPG measures your blood sugar level right after you’ve had nothing to eat for 8–12 hours, and OGTT is a multiple-hour test where you drink juice containing 75 grams of glucose followed by 5 hours where you must take certain blood samples.
Doctors can also diagnose gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, with additional blood work.
For people without risk factors such as obesity or family history but who are at an increased risk because they are age 45 or older, non-Hispanic black race/ethnicity (AA) African American ethnicity/race diagnosis should be confirmed with either FPG measurement and/or an OGTT.
The only way to cure type 1 diabetes is through pancreatic transplantation.
While there are a variety of treatment options for controlling blood sugar levels, it’s important to understand that there are no treatments that can completely cure diabetes.
It’s therefore crucial to remain vigilant about your health. If you suffer from diabetes, it’s critical to see a physician on a regular basis.
It’s also important to monitor how well you manage your condition by measuring your A1C level (this tells you what percentage of glucose has stuck around in the bloodstream for long periods).
You should know that if other members in your family have suffered from diabetes, their doctors will be especially careful monitoring and treating them.
Working with a healthcare team is an excellent idea if other loved ones have been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
How Does Diabetes Affect The Body?
In short, insulin plays a vital role in how cells get energy.
When your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it effectively (type 1 diabetes), you may experience symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, nausea, excessive thirst or hunger, blurred vision and slow-healing sores.
Meanwhile, when your body produces more insulin than is needed (type 2 diabetes), you might notice that it’s harder to control your blood sugar levels.
These signs of elevated blood glucose are commonly known as prediabetes and they put you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on down the road.
Key differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes
While both are chronic conditions that result in elevated blood glucose levels, there are some key differences between these two types of diabetes.
For one, type 1 diabetics have little to no insulin production in their bodies from their pancreas.
On top of that, they’re more likely to suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which is a serious condition when your body doesn’t have enough insulin to use for energy.
Meanwhile, prediabetes generally means that you haven’t developed full-blown type 2 diabetes yet but you may be at an increased risk for doing so over time if it isn’t treated.
Fortunately, with regular monitoring and management by a medical professional, most people with prediabetes can reduce their risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes significantly through lifestyle changes or medication.
When someone has type 1 diabetes, their pancreas doesn’t produce insulin.
In people with type 2 diabetes, it produces insulin but either can’t use it properly or there isn’t enough of it.
Since 2007, cases of type 2 diabetes have overtaken those of type 1 in children under 15 years old.
The biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are being overweight and a family history of the disease; genes also play a role.
But since you can’t do anything about your genes, prevention is key and that means avoiding excess weight gain by eating right and exercising regularly (or ideally both).
To monitor your blood sugar levels, you should get tested regularly, most healthcare providers recommend getting tested at least every two years.
If you notice any of these symptoms increased thirst, increased urination, lethargy and blurry vision see your doctor immediately to get yourself tested.