Diabetes is diabetes, right? Not exactly: there are distinctions. In fact, not knowing the distinctions is what leads to misconceptions and myths about type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
So, what is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Both types have similarities, but they develop for different reasons, may require different treatment, and can affect life in different ways. Get the details below!
Diabetes in Common
Let’s start off with the easy part: what’s not different about the two types.
Diabetes in general means that the body cannot lower blood sugar levels in a sufficient manner. As a result, anybody with diabetes is prone to having high blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar occurs after eating, since carbs eventually become glucose in the blood (i.e. blood sugar). High blood sugar might also be caused by other impacts on the body such as stress or illness.
If the blood sugar is too high, it is termed hyperglycemia. Prolonged high blood sugar has the potential to cause damage to the blood vessels, which in turn can cause damage in other areas of the body, leading to other conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
This is why those with diabetes need medication to help bring blood sugar levels back to a safe range. Medication should often be combined with a healthy lifestyle (including exercise and diet) which also helps to keep blood sugar levels in check.
That’s usually easier said than done, which is why medical devices like Hedia exist, to help with the different areas of diabetes management. Hedia can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.
Symptoms in Common
More immediately, hyperglycemia can make a person feel unwell and could lead to a coma if not treated. This is why those with diabetes need medication to help bring blood sugar levels back to a safe range.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia can include the following:
- Urinating more than usual
- Excessive thirst
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blurred vision
Hyperglycemia can be resolved with treatment – sometimes by injecting insulin. If, for any reason, too much insulin is taken, blood sugar levels may drop too low. A blood sugar level that is too low is termed hypoglycemia. This can also be dangerous if left untreated. Hypoglycemia is treated by eating or drinking carbs in order to raise blood sugar levels.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heart palpitations
About type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune condition is where the body rejects a healthy part of the body as a sort of confused immune response. In the case of diabetes, the body’s pancreas stops producing sufficient insulin. As a chronic condition, type 1 diabetes can be treated but not cured.
The body needs insulin because it is the hormone responsible for lowering blood sugar levels. As a result, all people with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin. As insulin covers any carbs consumed, a person with type 1 diabetes should be able to eat whatever they like.
As with any autoimmune condition, there is no clear cause. It just happens. Most people first develop type 1 diabetes as children. However, adults at any age can also develop type 1 diabetes.
About type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs due to the body’s insulin response slowing down. Either the pancreas produces less insulin or the body has become less sensitive to the effects of insulin (or both).
In a sense, the body becomes worn out by the insulin response and is not able to act as effectively any longer. This happens especially if a person has had an extremely carb-dense diet and has undertaken little exercise. But it is also due to a number of different factors, a significant one being genetics.
Type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed in older adults, especially those past the age of 60. It is not, however, impossible for younger people (sometimes even children) to develop type 2 diabetes.
As the development of type 2 diabetes is a gradual process, it can sometimes be stopped before it completely develops into diabetes. If a person has prediabetes, they can attempt to reverse it with diet, exercise, and medication.
The treatment for type 2 diabetes also relies on diet and exercise. Pills, such as metformin, may also be prescribed. It is also fairly common for those with type 2 diabetes to inject insulin instead.
What is the Difference Between type 1 and type 2 Diabetes?
To sum up the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes:
- Type 1 is an autoimmune condition which always requires insulin.
- Type 2 is where the body’s insulin response eventually becomes impaired and where the treatment is usually a combination of lifestyle and medication (sometimes insulin).
Essentially, the main differences are found in the origins (both occur for very different reasons) and the treatment (one always needs insulin, the other sometimes needs insulin).
Considering that both types may use insulin, it is sometimes more useful to differentiate diabetes in this way: either insulin-dependent diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
Whichever way you decide to differentiate, now you know what both types mean! Now stop asking your friend with type 1 diabetes if they can eat that 😉