What is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 1 and type 2 are the two main types of diabetes. Both are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar, or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, which require insulin to allow the glucose in.

People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin.

People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease often don’t produce enough insulin.

Both types of diabetes can lead to chronically high blood sugar, which increases the risk of diabetes complications.

Below is a table that shows the main differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

Type 1Type 2
What’s happening? Your body attacks the cells
in your pancreas, which
means it can’t make any insulin.
Your body is unable to make enough insulin or
the insulin you do make doesn’t work properly.
Risk FactorsWe don’t currently know what
causes type 1 diabetes.
We know some things can put you at risk for
type 2, including weight and ethnicity.
SymptomsThe symptoms for type 1
appear more quickly.
The symptoms for type 2 can be easier to
miss because they appear more slowly.
ManagementType 1 is managed by
taking insulin to control your
blood sugar.
You can manage type 2 diabetes in more ways
than type 1. These include exercise,
medication, and diet. People with type 2 can
also be prescribed insulin.
Cure and PreventionCurrently, there’s no cure
for type 1.
Type 2 can’t be cured, but there’s evidence
that in many cases it can be prevented and
put into remission.

Symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes share common symptoms, including:

• Frequent urination, especially at night
• Being really thirsty
• Feeling more tired than usual
• Losing weight without trying
• Genital itching or thrush
• Cuts and wounds take longer to heal
• Blurred vision

While the physical symptoms between the two types of diabetes are similar, the difference in symptoms is how they appear. Type 1 symptoms often appear quickly, which makes them harder to ignore. Type 2 symptoms can be easier to miss because they develop more slowly.

How Are Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Caused?

Type 1 Diabetes

Your body’s immune system is responsible for fighting off foreign invaders, like viruses and bacteria. If you have type 1 diabetes, your immune system mistakes your body’s own healthy cells for foreign invaders. Your immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in your pancreas. After these cells are destroyed, your body can’t produce insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. Your body still produces insulin, but it’s unable to use it effectively. Researchers don’t know why some people become insulin resistant, but lifestyle factors may play a role, including excess weight and inactivity. When you develop type 2 diabetes, your pancreas will try to compensate by producing more insulin. Because your body’s unable to effectively use insulin, glucose will accumulate in your bloodstream.

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Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis

Because the onset of type 1 diabetes tends to be sudden, you should see your doctor immediately if symptoms are present. People with obesity and other risk factors for type 2 diabetes should have regular blood tests to ensure that their glucose levels are healthy.

The following tests can be used to diagnose type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, some tests are not useful for both types. These are the tests:

• A1C test, which doctors also call the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin test
• Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test
• Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
• Random plasma glucose (RPG) test

Treatment and Prevention Differences

There isn’t a cure for type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, so it must be regularly injected into your body. Blood sugar testing is an essential part of managing type 1 diabetes because levels can go up and down quickly.

Type 2 diabetes can be controlled and even reversed with diet and exercise, but many people need extra support. Your doctor may prescribe medications that help your body use insulin more effectively if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.

Monitoring your blood sugar is an essential part of diabetes management because it’s the only way to know if you’re meeting the correct levels. If your blood sugar levels are high, your doctor may recommend insulin injections.

Learn More About Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes with Baptist Health

If you have or believe you have diabetes and would like to learn more about diagnosis and treatment options, contact your nearest Baptist Health location today.


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