It can be confusing to try to understand the differences and similarities between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes so we decided to put together a simple guide. Since Diabetes affects people of all ages, races and gender, we wanted to compare and contrast it.
Whether it's from a commercial advertisement for medication or knowledge of a loved one that developed it, Type 2 Diabetes awareness appears to be more prevalent. This may be due to the fact that 90-95% of all diabetics diagnosed are Type 2.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is when your blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) is too high. As explained on other posts, glucose comes from food we consume and is also made in muscles and your liver. Glucose travels through your blood to specific cells in your body for use as energy to power cellular mechanisms.
The pancreas is an organ which lays behind your stomach and helps with digestion by releasing the hormone insulin into your blood to help use up. If there is not enough insulin or it does not work the way it should, glucose stays in the blood and never reaches the cells. As a direct consequence of this, pre-diabetes and subsequent Type 2 diabetes can occur.
Pre-diabetes is sometimes viewed as a warning-phase when the body's level is above normal but not quite high enough to be considered diabetes (see our previous post about Insulin Resistance & Pre-Diabetes).
In Type 2 Diabetics, pancreatic cells which produce insulin (islets of Langerhans) are still functioning but the body does not produce enough insulin or has become resistant (or both).
Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
|The Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes|
Sources: WebMD & American Diabetes Association
Type 1 Diabetes
Previously referred to as "Juvenile Diabetes", Type 1 Diabetes often, but not always, develops in young people. It is characterized differently than Type 2 Diabetes because in this case, your body no longer makes enough or any insulin due to the body's immune system.
The immune system typically protects from infection, kills bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances. In Type 1 Diabetics, through a mechanism which is unknown, the immune system attacks and destroys the cells islet cells which make insulin in the pancreas. It is thought that genetics and certain environmental factors (such as viruses) may trigger the disease.
Since a significant number of islet cells are destroyed, the result is you produce little or no insulin. For Type 1 Diabetics, there is no insulin or not enough present to let glucose into the cells so it builds up in the bloodstream, causing similar complications to Type 2 diabetes, which can be life-threatening.
Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetics must worry about Hyperglycemia (when blood sugar levels are too high), but Type 1 Diabetics can also experience Hypoglycemia (when blood sugar levels are too low). Many people experience hypoglycemia as a side-effect of treatment with blood-sugar-lowering medication. There are a variety of symptoms and causes for both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, you should take note of these and call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns as they can be very detrimental to your well-being if left untreated.
Similarities Between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes
The similarities between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are vast, despite the way they differ in their mechanisms. People who suffer from Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes experience many of the same symptoms and need to keep close tabs on the amount of sugar in their blood. Elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) are a common in both types of diabetes.
Almost all of the same complications can affect both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetics. These can include, but are not limited to, circulatory problems, cholesterol, hypertension, stroke, and heart attack. Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure.
Although Type 1 Diabetics use injections to replenish their body's supply of insulin, Type 2 Diabetics do not usually begin their treatments with injections but rather with medications. However, over time, even Type 2 Diabetics may have to use injections as their cells fade in their ability to produce enough insulin. It is important to stay in contact with a diabetes specialist (endocrinologist) and your management team often.
Managed diet and exercise are helpful for all kinds of diabetes, taking significant healthy steps can reverse or slow pre-diabetes development.
Sources & Further Reading:
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases - Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2
WebMD - Diabetes Health Center - Diabetes: Differences Between Type 1 and 2
MayoClinic - Type 1 Diabetes
American Diabetes Association - Diabetes Basics
American Diabetes Association - Statistics About Diabetes
World Health Organization - 10 facts about diabetes
Joslin Diabetes Center - Ten Things You Might Not Know About Diabetes