Diabetes: The differences between types 1 and 2

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus (DM), is a metabolic disorder in which the body cannot properly store and use sugar.

It affects the body’s ability to use glucose, a type of sugar found in the blood, as fuel. This happens because
the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells do not correctly respond to insulin to use glucose as energy.

Insulin is a type of hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate how blood sugar becomes energy. An imbalance of insulin or resistance to insulin causes diabetes.

Diabetes is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, vision loss, neurological conditions, and damage to blood vessels and organs.

There is type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. They have different causes and risk factors, and different lines of treatment.

This article will compare the similarities and differences of types 1 and 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnancy and typically resolves after childbirth.

However, having gestational diabetes also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, so patients are often screened for type 2 diabetes at a later date.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29.1 million people in the United States (U.S.) have diabetes.

Fast facts on diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is often hereditary and unpreventable.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1. For every person with type 1 diabetes, 20 will have type 2.

Type 2 can be hereditary, but excess weight, a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet increase

At least a third of people in the U.S. will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

Both types can lead to heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, kidney damage, and possible amputation of limbs.


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People with type 1 diabetes will require supplemental insulin on an ongoing basis. People with type 2 will likely only need this for the later stages of the condition.

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.

These cells are destroyed, reducing the body’s ability to produce sufficient insulin and regulate blood glucose levels.

The body does not produce insulin, so the person needs supplemental insulin from the time they are diagnosed.

It often affects children and young adults, and it can start suddenly.

When type 2 diabetes starts, cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. In time, the body stops producing enough insulin, and the body can no longer use glucose effectively.

This means the cells cannot take up glucose, and glucose builds up in the blood.

This is called insulin resistance. If blood glucose is always high, the cells will be overexposed to insulin. They become less responsive or unresponsive to insulin.

Symptoms may take years to appear, and people can often use medications, diet, and exercise from in the early stages to reduce the risk or slow the disease.

People in the early stage of type 2 diabetes do not need supplemental insulin, but as the disease progresses, this may be necessary to control blood glucose control and to survive.

Type 2 often results from obesity and lifestyle and dietary factors, as well as medications and other issues.

Risk factors

Both types of diabetes may involve genetic factors.

In type 1, scientists have discovered a number of genes that are linked to the condition, developing the condition, but not everyone with these genetic factors develops it.

In type 2 diabetes, family history plays a key role.

Type 1 can emerge after a viral infection, such as mumps, or rubella cytomegalovirus.

Type 2 appears to be related to aging, an inactive lifestyle, diet, genetic influence, and obesity.

Both types 1 and type 2
appear to be more common in people with low levels of vitamin D, which is synthesized from sunlight.

Vitamin D supports immune function and insulin sensitivity, so those living at more northerly latitudes may
face a higher risk of diabetes. Supplemental vitamin D may lower the risk of developing diabetes.

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