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A whopping 6 in 10 adults in the United States have a chronic disease. Even worse, 4 in 10 have at least two chronic illnesses.

Diabetes, in turn, is one of the most common of such life-long conditions. It’s life-long because there’s no cure for this disease caused by high blood glucose (sugar).

Fortunately, treatments are available for all types of diabetes. These include type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the most common forms of the disease. Although similar, they have different causes and management methods.

To that end, we created this type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes guide comparing the two. So read on to learn more about these two types and how they differ.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes: A Quick Comparison

Type 1 diabetes, also known as T1D, is an organ-specific autoimmune disease. Moreover, it appears to be a genetic condition. People with this type of diabetes often experience its symptoms early in life.

By contrast, type 2 diabetes (AKA T2D) appears to be more lifestyle-related than genetic. It also develops over time, which is why it’s more common in adults.

Also, type 2 diabetes affects about 90% of all people with diabetes. Whereas type 1 diabetes only accounts for a fraction of all diabetes cases. T1D’s lower prevalence rate may be due to its genetic-related risk factors.

So What Is Type 1 Diabetes Exactly?

Type 1 diabetes is one of the more than 100 named autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases, in turn, mistakenly attack the body’s healthy cells.

In people with T1D, their immune system targets beta cells produced by the pancreas. The problem is that these cells create insulin, which, in turn, regulates blood glucose. Thus, the body of patients with T1D can’t generate insulin or makes very little of it.

Without enough insulin, blood sugar can’t enter the body’s cells. Instead, it builds up in the bloodstream, causing blood glucose levels to spike.

Another thing to note about type 1 diabetes is that specific genes appear to make people more likely to get it. Genes are traits parents pass on to their children. So if both parents have these genes, their kids are at a higher risk of T1D. 

What About Type 2 Diabetes Then?

In people with type 2 diabetes, their bodies still have beta cells that produce insulin. However, the body’s cells can’t respond to the glucose-regulating substance. Health experts refer to this response failure as insulin resistance.

That resistance prompts the pancreas to produce more insulin to make the cells react. But, unfortunately, they won’t. So eventually, the pancreas will be unable to keep up, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Health experts still haven’t pinpointed the exact causes of type 2 diabetes. What many agree on, though, is that lifestyle and weight are factors in its development.

That may help explain why T2D is common in people who are overweight or have obesity. In these individuals, approximately nine in 10 have T2D. Sedentary lifestyles, in turn, are contributing factors to these weight-related conditions.

Do T1D and T2D Have Similar Symptoms?

Yes, T1D and T2D share similar symptoms because both cause high blood sugar levels. Below are some of the signs and symptoms common in both types of diabetes:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue or extreme tiredness
  • Feeling hungry shortly after having a meal
  • Weight loss even with increased food consumption
  • Vision problems, such as blurriness
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet

However, it’s vital to note that type 1 diabetes usually exhibits symptoms as early as infancy. Whereas type 2 diabetes often shows up by age 40 or older. T2D can occur earlier, though; indeed, experts say it’s becoming more common in adults under 40.

How Is Type 1 Diabetes Treated?

Management and treatment of type 1 diabetes involve taking external insulin. It functions as a replacement for the insulin that the body doesn’t produce on its own. Patients with T1D often use injections or pumps to deliver insulin into their bodies.

People with T1D must also monitor their blood glucose levels throughout the day. They can do so with a blood glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. Furthermore, they must continuously count their carbohydrate intake.

What About Type 2 Diabetes Treatments?

Type 2 diabetes may be reversible for some people with lifestyle changes and weight loss. In this case, patients may have to go on a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet and pair it with exercise. Other diet options include diabetic meal replacement shakes that help curb carb intake.

Either way, the goal is to lose weight to help make the cells more responsive to insulin. That’s because the longer they’re resistant, the more fatty acids that build up in the blood plasma. Moreover, resistance decreases the transport of glucose into the cells.

Thus, weight loss with diet and exercise may be enough to reverse T2D in its earliest stages. However, even with a successful reversal, it can relapse or return anytime. For this reason, it’s vital to keep eating healthily and maintain a healthy weight.

If type 2 diabetes is no longer reversible, medications become necessary. Some of these drugs help lower glucose levels. Others trigger the body to produce more insulin.

Some patients with T2D may also need insulin therapy, often through injections. This treatment is often necessary if the above methods don’t work.

In some cases, doctors may also recommend weight loss surgery to patients with T2D. These include people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and who’ve tried weight loss and medications to no avail. Also, those with a BMI of 40 or a BMI of 35 and who have other obesity-related conditions like heart disease may need it.

Seek Help for either Type of Diabetes

We hope this type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes comparison guide has helped enlighten you on what sets the two apart. Just remember that T1D is an autoimmune and genetic condition. On the other hand, T2D has more to do with weight and lifestyle.

In any case, please see an endocrinologist ASAP if you believe you have diabetes. Endocrinologists are doctors who specialize in endocrine disorders, including diabetes.

Did you like this article and would like to read other health and lifestyle guides? Feel free to read our latest blog posts, then!

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