I needed to know What’s the difference between Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes. I knew my mother was Diabetic but I had no idea there were different types of Diabetes. Last June when my grandson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes I set out to learn the difference.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are similar but they are very different chronic diseases that affect the way the body regulates glucose. Glucose or sugar is the fuel that feeds the cells. That fuel requires insulin to enter the cell.
With Type 1 Diabetes the body does not produce insulin therefore the blood glucose levels remain unregulated leaving the patient susceptible to many life-threatening complications.
With Type 2 Diabetes the body doesn’t respond to insulin the way it should and later as the disease progresses they may stop producing insulin.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Before Diagnosis, both types of Diabetes share many symptoms which may include:
- frequent urination
- excessive thirst and drinking a lot
- feeling very hungry
- feeling very fatigued
- blurry vision
- cuts or sores that don’t heal properly or take longer to heal
People with Type 1 may also experience irritability and mood swings as well as unintentional weight loss. People with Type 2 may experience tingling or numbness in their hands and/or feet.
The symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes develop very quickly over several weeks. Although it usually develops in childhood and adolescence it is possible to get Type 1 Diabetes later in life.
Many people with Type 2 don’t have any symptoms for many years then the symptoms may develop slowly over time. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all and only find out they have Type 2 once complications arise such as heart and blood vessel disease, neuropathy (nerve damage), kidney damage, or eye damage to name a few.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
The body’s immune system is responsible for fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses. In people with Type 1 Diabetes, the body mistakes the body’s healthy cells for foreign invaders. It literally kills off its own insulin creating beta cells in the pancreas. Once these are destroyed the body can no longer produce insulin.
It is unknown why the body attacks its own cells this way but it may have something to do with genetics or exposure to viruses. Research is ongoing in this area.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
People with Type 2 Diabetes have insulin resistance. This means their body produces insulin but is unable to use it efficiently. Researchers are not certain why this happens but it is believed that excessive weight and inactivity are contributing factors.
Other genetic and environmental factors may also contribute. When you develop type 2 diabetes, your pancreas will try to compensate by producing more insulin. Because your body is unable to effectively use insulin, glucose will accumulate in your bloodstream.
What are the Risk Factors
Type 1 can’t be prevented but the risk factors include:
- Family history – having a parent or sibling with Type 1 Diabetes increases the risk
- Age – it can be developed at any age but is most commonly developed in childhood or adolescence
- Geography – Type 1 seems to increase the farther away from the equator you live
- Genetics – the presence of certain genes indicate a higher risk
The risk of developing Type 2 includes:
- having slightly higher blood sugar levels (pre-diabetes)
- being overweight or obese
- have an immediate family member with Type 2
- are over age 45
- are physically inactive
- have previously had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
- are African-American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
- have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome
- have a lot of belly fat
It may be possible to lower your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes with lifestyle changes.
Maintain a healthy weight, or work with your doctor to develop a weight loss plan. Increase your activity level and eat a healthy well-balanced diet.
There is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes and for this reason people who have Type 1 must take insulin injections regularly. Some people take regular injections into the soft tissue and some use insulin pumps to deliver a steady amount of insulin. Your doctor will determine which method is best for each patient. Blood sugar monitoring is an essential part of managing Type 1 Diabetes because blood glucose levels can change quickly.
Type 2 Diabetes can be controlled and sometimes even reversed with diet and exercise alone. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough the doctor will prescribe medications to help the body use insulin more effectively.
The only way to know if you are meeting your target ranges is through blood glucose monitoring. The doctor will determine how frequently you should monitor the blood glucose levels. If blood sugars remain too high the doctor may recommend insulin injections.
With careful monitoring, you can get your blood sugar levels back to normal and prevent the development of serious complications.
Whether one has Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes it can be managed with some lifestyle tweaks. Blood glucose monitoring is essential in either case and does not take long before it is just a normal part of the daily routine. Be sure to take all medications as prescribed and follow all recommendations of your doctor. Part of any healthy lifestyle is eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
While there is no cure for Type 1, it can be managed and a healthy, active lifestyle can be achieved.
That same healthy, active lifestyle can manage or even reverse Type 2.
We do advise you to work closely with your doctor to determine the best course of action as each case is different and everyone responds differently.
We hope that with a better understanding much of the fear can be removed about Diabetes. Understanding the differences between the two types of Diabetes can help with that. If you recognize any of the symptoms in yourself or a family member I encourage you to see a doctor.
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