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What is the Difference Between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes?

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are chronic diseases that alter the way our bodies utilize glucose or sugar. Sugar is the basic element that cells in muscles and brain use to produce energy for daily activities. Insulin is the key that opens the door for glucose into cells.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. In other words, no key.

Type 2 diabetes is as a result of insufficient insulin production or your body becomes numb to the effects of insulin. This is somewhat like a broken key or a door opens halfway and leaves some traffic outside

Because both diseases lead to abnormally high blood glucose, they can have similar symptoms and complications.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Diabetic patients initially report a classical triad of symptoms:

  • Increased hunger
  • Thirst
  • Frequent urination

Other signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Weight loss
  • Visual abnormalities
  • Wounds that take long to heal
  • Recurrent infections

In most cases, people with type 1 diabetes present with weight loss and mood instabilities. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes patients are mostly obese and feel numbness or tingling of hands or feet.

As each of these diseases is a result of insulin deficiency, they can have the same symptoms. However, they don’t each look alike. Type 2 diabetes patients can have some insulin production that masks the condition and it can take decades before there is burnout. At times, some people are diagnosed with diabetes during routine appointments.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, symptoms develop a bit faster in type 1 diabetes because of a total lack of insulin. Type 1 diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes, develops earlier in life (childhood or teens), or early adulthood

What causes diabetes?

Both diseases are ‘diabetes’, but each class has varying causes.

Type 1 diabetes – a case of friendly fire

In order to protect itself from outside “invaders”, your body produces immune cells known as antibodies to ward off infections. In type 1 diabetes, your body thinks beta cells of your pancreas are dangerous and creates antibodies against it. As a result, all cells are destroyed and no insulin is produced.

Scientists don’t know the reason for this self-assault. It could be as a result of genetic or environmental factors, or viral infections that initiate the attack.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. The pancreas still secretes insulin, but it is not enough to be effective. While it is still baffling why some people develop insulin resistance while others do not, scientists think the phenomenon is possibly lifestyle induced. Being overweight and inactive increases susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.

Genetics likely plays a part in its development. To cover up for the glucose vs insulin mismatch, your pancreas releases more insulin into the bloodstream. This compensatory measure with an inefficient system results in the accumulation of glucose in the blood.

How common is diabetes?

Currently, more people are living with type 2 diabetes than type 1.

As we grow older, the risk of diabetes also increases. In the general population, the incidence is below 10%, but after 65 years, it peaks close to 25%. By 2015, only 0.18% of children under 18 years had diabetes.

The rate of diabetes is almost even among men and women. However, the only difference comes in data collected from different ethnicities. Blacks and Hispanics have a higher incidence than non-Hispanic whites while American Indians and Alaskan Natives have the highest prevalence among men and women.

What are the risk factors for type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:

  • Family history: People whose parents or siblings had diabetes type 1 will likely develop it as well.
  • Age: Type 1 disease affects children and adolescents. However, it can occur at any age.
  • Geography: As you move away from the equator the incidence of type 1 diabetes rises.
  • Genetics: Some inherited genes can lead to the development of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented.

You are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are Hispanic, American Indian, Black, or Alaska Native
  • Are older than 45 years
  • Are overweight
  • Are sedentary and inactive
  • Ever had diabetes during pregnancy, also called gestational diabetes
  • Give birth to a baby weighing above 9 pounds
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Have a lot of belly fat
  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Show signs of increased blood sugar

It is possible to arrest or reverse the progression to type 2 diabetes through:

  • Keeping physically active
  • Eating a balanced diet with regulated amounts of carbohydrates
  • Weight loss

How are type 1 and type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are diagnosed using the A1C test, also referred to as glycated haemoglobin. This is a measure of your mean blood sugar measurement over two or three months.

Your doctor will prick your finger and use a drop of blood for the test. A higher score means your blood sugar is high. Scoring 6.5 or higher indicates diabetes.

How to keep your blood sugar normal

People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin. This means that there is no cure for type 1 diabetes unless it is injected into the body. Some people rely on injected insulin, given via injection on their abdomen, buttocks, or arms, several times a day. Insulin pumps can also be used to supply a steady stream of insulin to the bloodstream through a small tube.

It can be possible in some people to manage type 2 diabetes using a combination of weight loss, exercise and diet alone.  When lifestyle changes fail, some drugs are prescribed to help your body increase the production of insulin or use it efficiently.

Measuring your blood sugar regularly is integral in managing diabetes. Talk with your doctor to find the best intervals for testing. If your average score is high, you may need to use insulin injections for better control.

By sticking to lifestyle changes and drug regimens, your blood sugar will be normal and prevent complications.

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