This article will explain the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes

What is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 and type 1 diabetes are the two main types of diabetes. Both conditions are chronic diseases characterized by higher than normal blood sugar levels. So, what is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

  • People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates. The cells in your body require sugar for energy. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5-10% of people who have diabetes.
  • People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies don’t use it effectively. This is the most common type of diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults.

Both types of diabetes have many similarities. However, they also have distinct differences. Let’s find out the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Symptoms

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes share many common symptoms, including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth

Although both types of diabetes share similar symptoms, they present themselves in different ways.

Type 1 diabetes can develop quickly. It sometimes develops over the course of a few weeks or even a few days! It’s also commonly formed in childhood or adolescence. However, it can develop in adults as well.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops slowly. Many people with type 2 diabetes won’t have symptoms for a few years. Some people have no symptoms at all and their condition is only diagnosed because of the complications brought on by diabetes.

Diabetes Causes

So far we’ve learned that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are very similar conditions. They both affect blood sugar levels and present similar symptoms. However, the main difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is what causes them.

Type 1 Diabetes Causes

The immune system is responsible for fighting off foreign invaders, like viruses and bacteria. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign invaders. Thus, the immune system begins to destroy insulin-producing cells. Eventually, the body is unable to produce insulin at all. Without insulin, the body is not able to absorb sugar to use for energy.

Research is not entirely clear on why this happens, though genetics and environmental factors are thought to play a role.

Type 2 Diabetes Causes

People with type 2 diabetes do produce insulin. However, their bodies are not able to properly absorb insulin. Some glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing high glucose levels. This is known as insulin resistance.

Just as with type 1 diabetes, scientists don’t know exactly what causes type 2 diabetes. Several lifestyle factors may play a role, including excess weight and lack of physical activity. Additionally, genetics and environmental factors may contribute.

Diabetes Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes

  • Family History. Anyone who has a family member with type 1 diabetes has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition themselves.
  • Age. Type 1 diabetes is most common in children and adolescence, though it can appear at any age.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

  • Obesity. Being overweight puts you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The longer a person is obese, the more the risk for type 2 diabetes increases. In a 2014 study, a two-year duration of obesity increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 14%.
  • Inactivity. Physical activity aids in weight control and regular blood sugar levels. Thus, the less active you are, the higher your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Poor diet. A diet low in fiber and high in sugar and saturated/trans fats is linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Fat Distribution. Some research has found that people who store fat in their abdomen, as opposed to other places in the body, are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Family History. The risk for type 2 diabetes increases if a parent or sibling has it.
  • Race. Those who are African-American, Hispanic, Indian, and Asian, are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Age. Type 2 diabetes is most common in adults, especially over the age of 45. However, type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically among the younger population.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS have a higher chance of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by practicing healthy lifestyle habits.

Diabetes Treatment

There is also a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes regarding treatment.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Since people with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, it must be regularly injected into the body through injections several times a day. Additionally, an insulin pump is another option which supplies a steady stream of insulin to the body.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed, and sometimes even reversed, through lifestyle changes. A healthy diet, exercise, and stress management are habits that can help to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. Some people may need extra support if lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough. Your doctor may prescribe you medication to help your body use insulin more effectively.

Monitoring blood sugar levels and regularly getting an A1C test done is an important part of type 1 and type 2 diabetes management.

Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes: Summary

Though they have the same name, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different conditions with unique causes, risk factors, and treatment approaches. However, they also have many things in common, such as symptoms and management approaches.

Here is a chart summarizing the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

Do not produce insulin Do not use insulin effectively
Often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence Often diagnosed in adults
Cannot be prevented or cured Can be prevented and sometimes reversed
Treated with insulin injections or an insulin pump Treated through lifestyle changes and often medication
Least common type of diabetes Most common type of diabetes