The Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
The differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes confuse many individuals. Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6, I was taught the differences between the two forms of the disease. I understood many details about diabetes and I assumed that everyone else did also. After interacting with many individuals over the years, I discovered that this was not the case.
Persons usually make the assumption that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes come about as a result of poor health choices and being overweight. However, this assumption is incorrect. While both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are characterised by having higher than normal blood sugar levels, the cause and development of the each type are different. Below are the primary differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
1. Cause: Type 1 Diabetes is an Autoimmune Disease While Type 2 Diabetes is a Lifestyle Related Disease
In response to an unknown trigger, the immune system may begin producing antibodies that instead of fighting infections, attack the body’s own tissues. Immune system antibodies attack and destroy insulin-producing cells (beta cells) in the pancreas resulting in type 1 diabetes. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy.
Therefore, people with this type of the disease require insulin injections to get the sugar from the blood stream into the cells to survive. After diagnosis, the immune system will still continue to destroy any new beta cells produced. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed from infancy to the early 20s. Type 1 occurs as a sudden onset and symptoms usually manifest quickly.
Type 2 diabetes is usually a result of lifestyle factors and poor health. Being overweight, having high blood pressure, having high cholesterol and lack of exercise or regular movement can contribute to developing type 2 diabetes.
People with type 2 either don’t make enough insulin or don’t use insulin that the body produces properly. The cells in the body become resistant to insulin, making a greater amount of insulin necessary to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range. Eventually, the pancreas can wear out from producing extra insulin, and it may start making less and less. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in persons in their late 30s and onward. However, with the high sugar consumption in the average diet nowadays, type 2 diabetes can occur in young individuals. Type 2 has a gradual onset and a direct correlation to health. Genetics may also play a part in developing type 2 diabetes.
2. Most Common: Type 2 is the Most Common Type of Diabetes in the World
This is because type 2 diabetes is developed as a result of an individual’s lifestyle and health. Approximately 90% to 95% of all diabetes cases are type 2 leaving, type 1 with the shocking minority of 5% to 10%. With the current daily sugar consumption and lack of physical activity, millions of people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes world wide.
3. Prevention: You Can’t Prevent Type 1 Diabetes
Unfortunately, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. No matter how healthy and fit you are there is still the possibility of developing this type of the disease. I know of several persons, even athletes who were healthy and in their prime and they were still diagnosed with type 1.
On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is preventable or at least delayed until old age. This can be achieved with a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating sensibly, and exercising regularly. Achieving and maintaining a healthy amount of muscle mass can also assist in how the body utilises glucose from food consumed hence lowering the risk.
4. Treatment and Management: Persons With Type 1 Diabetes Have to Take Insulin for the Rest of Their Lives
In type 1 diabetes the pancreas has completely lost the ability to produce insulin or it barely produces any. Therefore, the disease can only be managed with insulin injections or an insulin pump. While diet and exercise play a very important part in management, type 1 diabetes cannot be managed with this alone. Type 1 cannot be reversed or cured and a person will have the disease for the rest of their lives.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, with type 2 the pancreas still produces some insulin. Therefore there are several treatment or management options available to persons with type 2 diabetes. In some cases, type 2 can be reversed. This is usually done with strict diet and exercise regiments. In other cases, it can be managed or controlled with oral medication which is taken daily. The aim in type 2 diabetes management is to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance. Some medication such as Metformin helps to lower blood glucose levels by reducing the amount of glucose produced and released by the liver. The result will be having a normal blood sugar level.
There are some cases of type 2 diabetes where persons have to take insulin. This happens when the pancreas is hardly producing any insulin and the body cannot adequately provide the cells with glucose for energy. This can also occur if insulin resistance is very high. In severe cases, both oral medication and insulin injections may be needed.
Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Have Serious Complications
Although there are several differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, they both can result in serious health issues. Having constant or frequent high blood sugar levels can cause chronic kidney disease, foot problems, lower limb (leg, foot, toe, etc.) amputation, eye disease (retinopathy) that can lead to blindness, heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, and erectile dysfunction. Diabetes related complications can be very serious and even life threatening. Properly managing blood sugar levels reduces the risk of developing these complications, possibly increases life expectancy and improves the quality of life.
Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Infographic