55ºF

We’ve all heard of diabetes. But do you know the difference between types 1 and 2?

Saturday marks World Diabetes Day

A blood glucose measurement is performed.
A blood glucose measurement is performed. (Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Safe to say, most people have heard of diabetes, the disease that affects the way your body regulates blood sugar, or glucose.

But did you realize there are two types of diabetes?

And as this diabetes research website points out, despite sharing a name, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are quite different.

It’s important to understand those differences if researchers hope to find a way to cure, treat and prevent the disease. Or if you’re caring for someone with diabetes or managing your own health, you’ll want to understand how type 1 and type 2 begin, how they affect the body and how they’re treated.

The website Health Line used an analogy involving a key.

People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. Think of it in terms of, they don’t have a key.

People with Type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should -- and as the disease progresses, they often don’t make enough insulin. It’s like you have a key, but it’s broken.

“Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells, it needs a key,” the website said. “Insulin is that key.”

Both types of diabetes can lead people to have chronically high blood sugar levels. That’s not good -- that increases the risk of health complications.

So, what are some other key differences?

Type 1 is often diagnosed in children and young adults, while Type 2 is usually diagnosed in adults.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, caused by a response in the body against insulin-producing beta cells, according to Diabetes Research Connection. When it comes to Type 2, the exact cause is unknown, but it’s related to weight, age, inactivity and genetics, experts say.

For treatment, Type 1 diabetics must take insulin, first and foremost, as the body no longer produces it. In comparison, for Type 2, treatment usually includes some combination of medications, diet, exercise and insulin.

If diabetes goes uncontrolled, regardless of type, there are some similar symptoms, including frequent urination; feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot; excessive hunger and fatigue; blurry vision; and cuts or sores that don’t heal properly, according to Health Line.

Type 2 is more common that Type 1, the website went on to say. According to the 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, there are about 34.2 million people in the United States with diabetes -- which is roughly 1 in 10. Among all these people living with diabetes, 90 to 95% have Type 2, the CDC report estimates.


About the Author: