The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

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Type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes are often thought of as being one and the same, but in actual fact, they are two very different diseases with one thing in common. They both cause a high blood sugar level. According to a survey carried out, type 2 diabetes is the more prevalent type of diabetics, with an astounding 95 percent of people living with diabetes being type 2 diabetics, and a mere 5 percent being type 1. So, just what is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes that set them apart? Well, the following overview will help shed more light on this.

The Cause

The first difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes lies in the cause of each condition. Dr. Andjela Drincic, associate professor of medicine in endocrinology and diabetes at the Nebraska Medical Center provided the following findings. Type 1 diabetes usually comes about when the body’s immune system starts attacking pancreatic cells which make insulin. The exact cause for this is unknown. However, it is believed that there is an environmental factor which, when coupled with certain genes, triggers such attacks.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, can be brought about by a number of reasons. For starters, individuals can inherit genes that make them susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes. As a norm, if one of your parents is diabetic, the chance of developing type 2 diabetes is very high. Poor lifestyle choices such as obesity, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles significantly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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Onset of the Condition

Another major difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is the onset of symptoms associated with the medical condition. For instance, type 2 diabetes symptoms usually start appearing in the early 30s with a vast majority of individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes receiving a diagnosis for this condition in their 40s. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is usually diagnosed during childhood and symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes usually start appearing during childhood, unlike those of type 2. However, according to recent medical research, type 2 diabetes symptoms have started appearing in individuals of an increasingly younger age. It is now more common for adults to get type 1 diabetes.


The symptoms for type 1 and type 2 diabetes are more or less the same with the major difference being the age when the symptoms will start showing up. As a norm, a diabetic suffering from type 1 diabetes usually starts exhibiting some symptoms when the blood sugar gets very high. Some of the symptoms associated with this type of diabetes include fatigue, hunger, thirst, weight loss, frequent urination, and rapid breathing.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms usually don’t show up for many years. As such, the disease can be progressively damaging a diabetic’s body without his or her knowledge. One of the main symptoms of type 2 diabetes is numbness or tingling of the hand or feet. However, it is important to note that the symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes usually appear almost immediately but for type 2 diabetes symptoms, they usually appear systematically and as a norm, can take quite some time before they show up.

Their Effect on the Body/Complications

As mentioned earlier, individuals with type 1 diabetes usually do not produce insulin, causing sugar to build up in the blood and not be absorbed into body cells where it is needed for the production of cellular energy. As a result, the high level of sugar in the blood brings about symptoms such as hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and can often have devastating effects on the body such as damage to internal organs, nerves, and even blood vessels. Individuals with type 2 diabetes also experience these complications, but herein lies another difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes: individuals with type 2 diabetes have the capacity to produce insulin but, with time, their bodies become less sensitive to it, bringing about several negative effects. High blood pressure and stroke are some of the effects that both these conditions bring about

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Despite each difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, diagnosis is largely the same, with perhaps one exception. In both cases, a hemoglobin test, fasting blood sugar test or a glucose test are methods of determining whether or not an individual has diabetes. The blood sugar test used to diagnose type 1 diabetes is usually in the form of a blood test which looks for antibodies the immune system makes in order to fight against the pancreatic cells. As such, by detecting these antibodies within the bloodstream, doctors can deduce that individuals are suffering from type 1 diabetes. For type 2 diabetes, doctors usually make a diagnosis from various tests, detectable symptoms, and family history. Family history tests check whether or not another family member had diabetes.


Currently, there is no outright cure for either of these conditions and, as such, patients need to manage them. As mentioned earlier, type 1 diabetes usually prevents the pancreatic cells from producing insulin. As such, a type 1 diabetic has to take regular insulin shots to manage this condition. When doing this, they also have to check their blood sugar level to know how much insulin they should take. Type 2 diabetes can be easily managed through proper exercising and dieting to delay the onset of diabetes-related symptoms. However, doctors can prescribe oral medication for stimulating the production of insulin. Lastly, type 2 diabetics who have a total shutdown in production of insulin can have insulin shots administered.

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Sourced from: everydayhealth