Diabetes or more properly called, diabetes mellitus is a disease of high blood glucose (sugar). It is diagnosed when the body cannot properly use or store glucose so it accumulates in the bloodstream which can lead to poor health and long-term health complications if not treated.
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Although both types do have similarities, the primary difference is:
- In type 1 diabetes, your body is unable to make enough insulin
- In type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to make enough insulin or the insulin being make doesn’t function properly
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The primary differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, which was once called juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies produced by the immune system attack the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
This leaves the individual without the ability to make insulin. Without insulin we cannot live which is why individuals with type 1 diabetes must be on insulin treatment. While type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in children or young adults, it can also be diagnosed later in life as well.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and used to be called “adult onset diabetes”.
This form of diabetes has a stronger genetic component than type 1 diabetes and is commonly associated with overweight and obese adults. Individuals of certain ethnic and racial backgrounds also have a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes especially in the obesogenic environment. While type 2 diabetes is most often diagnosed in adults, we are diagnosing it more frequently in children and young adults with obesity.
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Risk factors: What are the different risk factors for type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Risk factors: Type 1 diabetes
Some of the most common risk factors for type 1 diabetes are linked to personal or family history, these factors include:
- Personal or family history of autoimmune disorders
Historically, individuals with type 1 diabetes were lean or of normal body weight, but more recently we have been seeing more overweight and obesity in individuals with type 1 diabetes.
Risk factor: type 2 diabetes
There are more known and common risk factors for type 1 diabetes than type 1, these factors include:
- Family history/genetics
- Metabolic dyslipidemia: low HDL and high triglycerides
- Women with a history of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- History of vascular disease
See also: Is Diabetes Genetic, Hereditary or Both?
Symptoms: What are the different symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Symptoms: Type 1 diabetes
Individuals who newly develop type 1 diabetes generally present quite ill with the classic symptoms of high blood glucose which include:
- Excessive urination and thirst
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
- Excessive urination and thirst
With elevated glucose in the blood, the kidneys start to excrete glucose which draws water with it leading to excessive urination. That then leads to dehydration and therefore excessive thirst.
If not picked up early enough these patients can then develop a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in which blood acid levels rise leading to severe illness with nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, weakness and loss of consciousness. This is a medical emergency.
Symptoms: Type 2 diabetes
If picked up early type 2 diabetes can present without any symptoms at all.
However, individuals with type 2 diabetes can also develop the classic symptoms of high blood glucose as described above.
Rarely patients with type 2 diabetes can present with DKA. Because the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can sometimes be subtle and thus picked up late, sometimes patients can have evidence of end-organ damage when they first get diagnosed, such as with symptoms of neuropathy (numbness, tingling, pain in the toes and feet), retinal damage on an eye exam or evidence of kidney disease on blood or urine tests.
See also: What is DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis)?
Screening methods: What are the different screening methods for type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be screened for using the same testing methods. The most commonly performed test now is the Hemoglobin A1c test or “A1c”. This test gives us information on whether the blood glucose has been elevated over the last 3 months. It is a relatively inexpensive test and can be done at any time of day.
A value of <5.7% is considered normal. Prediabetes is diagnosed when the A1c is ≥5.7% but <6.5%. Diabetes is diagnosed when the A1c is ≥6.5%.
A fasting blood glucose or a two-hour glucose tolerance test can also be performed.
Blood tests must be confirmed with at least two abnormal tests before a diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes should be made. In addition, different organizations such as the American Diabetes Association have also developed “risk scores” based on history, weight, etc.
It is recommended that all adults 45 years old or older be screened for diabetes. Younger individuals with overweight/obesity or with multiple other risk factors should be screened earlier.
There is not a clear consensus on how often testing for diabetes should be done if the tests are normal. Higher risk individuals should probably be screened on a yearly basis. Those at lower risk can probably be screened less frequently unless their risk factors have changed.
See also: What is Prediabetes?
Treatment: What is the difference in treatment for type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Treatment: Type 1 diabetes
The treatment for diabetes is complex and depends on the type of diabetes you have. For individuals with type 1 diabetes, they must be on insulin therapy either through injections or via insulin pump therapy.
Treatment: Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can be treated with lifestyle changes and weight loss, oral medications, non-insulin injectable medications, and insulin. Bariatric surgery is also one of the most effective treatments for type 2 diabetes.
See also: What is the Best Treatment for Diabetes?
If you want to know more about your blood sugar levels, you can do so from the comfort of your own home with LetsGetChecked’s at-home Diabetes Test. Results will be available online within 5 days and our expert medical team will be available to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.
See also: How do you Check for Diabetes From Home?