Type One Vs. Type Two Diabetes: Getting to Grip With the Differences
More than 30 million people in the US have diabetes. However, 8.1 million people have not been diagnosed with their condition. A further 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that can develop into diabetes if left untreated.
However, not everyone in America experiences diabetes in the same way. Some people have type one diabetes while others develop type two. These have different causes and may require different treatments.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes it’s important for you to understand the differences between type one vs type two diabetes. This will help you to seek the right treatment so you can stay in good health.
In that case, you’ve come to the right place! Read on to find out everything you need to know about type one and two diabetes.
What is Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
Both type one and type two diabetes are serious health conditions that affect your body’s blood glucose levels.
Glucose is an essential substance, which your body gets from food, that gives the cells in your body energy to perform their necessary tasks. However, if this glucose isn’t properly stored at can cause serious problems.
Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. People who have diabetes don’t produce the correct amount of insulin to do this. As a result, their blood sugar levels aren’t regulated.
This can lead to some serious medical complications for people with diabetes. If you don’t have your condition under control you’re at risk of experiencing:
- Loss of vision
- Cardiovascular disease
- Damage to your blood vessels
- Organ damage
- Kidney disease
- Nerve damage
- Neurological complications
- Prolonged healing times for scrapes and cuts
- A coma
If your blood sugar level rises too much you will experience hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar levels drop too low. Both are serious and it’s important to get them under control as soon as possible or you could end up in a coma.
What are the Differences Between Type One vs Type Two Diabetes?
While the outcomes of having type one or type two diabetes might be similar, the conditions actually affect your body in different ways.
One of the key differences between diabetes one and two is the cause of them. Type one diabetes is often genetic and therefore it difficult to prevent. In comparison, type two diabetes often develops over a longer time period and has been linked to particular lifestyle choices.
As a result, the treatment options available are also a difference between diabetes. For all patients with diabetes, treatment involves managing the condition rather than curing it. However, treatment for type one diabetes can be very different from treatment for type two.
What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?
Type one diabetes is often genetic, which means it shows up a lot in children and adolescents. However, some people may only experience it later in life.
Type one diabetes happens when your immune system attacks the beta cells in your pancreas. This stops them from producing insulin completely so your body cannot regulate its blood sugar levels.
Because type one diabetes is genetic, there is no way to prevent yourself from developing it. Some people are more likely to experience it than others. Risk factors for type one diabetes include:
- a family history of type one diabetes
- certain other genetic features that can affect that way your body produces insulin
- cystic fibrosis
- exposure to certain viruses and infections, including mumps and rubella cytomegalovirus
- lack of vitamin D
Type one diabetes affects far fewer people than type two. Only around 5% of the diabetes population has type one.
What Cause Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes develops over time, which is why it often affects older people. It can also start to develop in children and is often a result of lifestyle choices.
If you have type two diabetes, your body still produces insulin. However, it is unable to use this effectively to control the glucose levels in your bloodstream. This is one of the key ways that it differs from type one diabetes.
Some things that increase your chances of developing type two diabetes include:
- having a family history of type two diabetes
- being overweight or obese
- not exercising regularly
- lack of vitamin D
Certain medication has also been linked to increased chances of developing type two diabetes. This includes some anti-seizure medication and HIV treatment medication.
Some women develop diabetes during pregnancy. This is because their bodies struggle to make enough insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. This is also known as gestational diabetes and often occurs during the later stages of pregnancy.
You can find out more about handling diabetes during pregnancy here.
Before a person develops type two diabetes they will experience prediabetes. This usually takes five years to develop into type two diabetes. During this time you may be able to make lifestyle adjustments to stop diabetes in its tracks.
But in order to treat your diabetes, you first need a diagnosis. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of type one and two diabetes.
Symptoms of Type One and Two Diabetes
A lot of the symptoms of type one and two diabetes are very similar.
People with diabetes often experience an unexplained increase in thirst and appetite. They’ll also start urinating more.
In spite of higher blood sugar levels, you may start to notice that you’re feeling more tired than normal. Or you may find yourself exhausted after simple tasks that you had no difficulty with before.
Type one and two diabetes can also cause blurred vision and numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. You may also start to notice broken patches or skin that take longer to heal than normal.
Diabetes also causes weight loss that is unexpected or that you can’t explain. This is often sudden and dramatic. It can also be confusing if you’ve experienced an increased appetite.
However, one of the big differences in the symptoms of diabetes is who they affect and how long it takes them to develop.
People with type one diabetes often have a body mass index or BMI within the healthy range. This is from 19 to 24.9. In contrast, people who develop type two diabetes have a BMI of 25 and over.
The symptoms of type one diabetes also develop very rapidly over time. They will happen over a couple of weeks so it’s important to get on top of them as soon as possible.
The weight loss can be so extreme during this time that it results in hospitalization. In fact, that’s exactly how Nick Jonas found out that he had type one diabetes at the age of thirteen!
The symptoms of type two diabetes can be onset for a much longer period of time before they reach their peak. This can take several years rather than weeks or months.
Diagnosing Type One vs. Type Two Diabetes
The initial tests for type one and two diabetes are the same. These all focus on testing your blood sugar levels. These include:
- Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) tests, which will indicate your blood sugar levels for the last two or three months
- Random blood sugar tests, which can be taken at anytime
- Fasting blood sugar tests, which are taken after you’ve fasted overnight
- Oral glucose tolerance tests, which test how your body responds to sugar after a night fasting
If doctors suspect that you have type one diabetes they will run further tests. This involves testing your urine and testing your immune system. This will reveal whether or not your body is processing glucose properly or not and why.
Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels
After you’ve been diagnosed with either type of diabetes, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. This means that you can always stay on top of your treatment and have time to seek medical help if you need it.
People with type one diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels more regularly than people with stable type two diabetes. If you have type one diabetes, you should do this six or seven times a day. If you have had your diabetes under control for a while you may be able to reduce this to four times a day.
If you have type two diabetes which you’ve had control of for a while then you can check your blood sugar levels twice a day.
You may have to check your blood sugar levels more if they are fluctuating.
If you’re unwell, you’ll need to monitor your blood sugar levels more regularly. This is because your condition may be affected by antibodies that your body releases to fight the illness. Children with diabetes also need testing more frequently.
Some people back up their blood sugar monitoring by using an alert dog. These dogs will raise the alarm if they detect blood sugar levels that are too high or too low.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes it’s important to follow the prescribed treatment plan. This involves a lot more than simply monitoring your blood sugar levels.
Some treatments will be prescribed for both types of diabetes. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Exercising for at least thirty minutes every day
People with type one diabetes may need to discuss carbohydrate counting with an experienced dietician. This is so that they avoid ingesting more glucose than their body can handle.
Beyond this, the treatments for each type of diabetes are different depending on the patient’s needs.
Treating Type One Diabetes
Treatment options for type one diabetes all focus on providing your body with the insulin it needs to function properly. This is also known as insulin therapy.
There are a few different types of insulin medication. Some are fast-acting while others offer a slow release of a big dose of insulin. Often people with type one diabetes use a combination of these to suit their day- and night-time needs.
Insulin has to be delivered directly into the bloodstream rather than being ingested. You can either do this using a needle (sometimes known as an insulin pen) or via an insulin pump.
The most recent development in insulin delivery involves an insulin loop or an artificial pancreas. This treatment option is still in the trial phase.
Some people with type one diabetes may also be put on the transplant list for a new pancreas. Before this happens, a doctor must identify that the cause of the condition lies solely in the pancreas.
These procedures are a lot riskier than insulin treatments. That’s why the majority of patients opt for management rather than a magic bullet cure.
Treating Type Two Diabetes
There are several approaches to treating type two diabetes. The right one for you depends on the cause of your diabetes and how severe the condition has become.
Most doctors will focus on lifestyle changes that you can make to help manage your condition. As well as healthy eating and regular exercise, they may recommend that you quit smoking or diet to lose weight.
In some type two cases, doctors will recommend bariatric surgery. This involves fitting a gastric band for people with a BMI of 35 or more. This can really improve their chances of losing weight.
Doctors may also prescribe oral medication to treat type two diabetes. In some cases, you may be treated using insulin therapy although this is much rare for type two diabetics.
So There You Have It!
For two conditions under the same umbrella name, there really are a lot of differences between type one vs type two diabetes. From the causes to the treatments it’s important to keep these differences in mind when managing your type one or type two diabetes.
For more help kickstarting your diabetes-friendly lifestyle, check out these top tips! Or visit our blog for more diabetes inspiration.