What is the Difference Between Type 1 and 2 Diabetes?

We all consume carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, and many other nutrients for the body’s growth and development. What if you eat food but don’t get benefits from it? Food consumption and digestion are all linked with the digestive system.

If any malfunction happens in the digestive system, it affects your metabolism and causes various diseases. Sometimes only food habits are not the reason for digestive problems. In some people, it has been found that type 2 diabetes affects the digestive system.

Diabetes is a medical situation that arises due to abnormal insulin hormone levels. It generally occurs when the level of blood sugar increases. The pancreas produces insulin hormone, which is responsible for diabetes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 422 million people have diabetes worldwide, and 1.5 million deaths have been observed due to diabetes every year. The number of diabetes cases keeps increasing.

Although diabetes is a chronic disease, its symptoms are not that visible. Hence, people don’t get to know that they are diabetic. Sometimes people don’t understand which kind of diabetes they have.

The main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. How do you distinguish between these two types of diabetes?

‘What is the difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes? Before getting into that subject, let us first understand diabetes mellitus.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is a very common diabetes that occurs when the pancreas doesn’t secrete enough hormone called insulin. Insulin is responsible for the control of blood sugar levels in the blood. What is the difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes? A general understanding of diabetes and insulin will be helpful to understand better.

When the insulin level in your body decreases, glucose accumulates without reaching the cells. This accumulation of glucose in the blood results in many health problems, and diabetes mellitus is one of them. 

What Is the Difference Between Type 1 and 2 Diabetes?

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 

Both types of diabetes occur when body cells do not get enough glucose, as it is the main energy source for cells. This would happen when glucose is not reaching the partitions, or the body doesn’t get enough insulin to control glucose levels.

As per the data released by the World Health Organization (WHO), type 2 diabetes is very common in people compared to type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults. That is why it is also known as juvenile diabetes.

At the same time, type 2 diabetes symptoms are seen in adults. Let us look at the differences and find out how they can be diagnosed.

1. Symptoms

Let us begin by looking at the symptoms. The common symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Starving
  • Excessive urination
  • Drinking excess water
  • Kidney issues
  • Blurry vision
  • Vision loss

If your body shows such signs, there are chances you might have diabetes. Through these symptoms, it might be difficult to define which type of diabetes you have. 

Let’s see the difference in symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that will help you to understand clearly the probability of whether it is type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes take time to develop. Sometimes people don’t even know they have type 2 diabetes. Its symptoms are not easily noticeable. Due to this reason, there are risk factors in this case.

Type 2 diabetes is most common in adults but has also been observed in teens and children.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is more common in children, teens, and younger people. There is no age foundation; it also occurs at any age. People having type 1 diabetes shows such symptoms as stomach pains, vomiting, nausea, etc.

These symptoms are easily detectable. Hence the risk factors are less in type 1 diabetes. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are visible within a few weeks or months.

2. Causes

Let us look at the causes that define type 1 and 2 diabetes. Diabetes results from any imbalance and disturbance in insulin production by the pancreas. Due to this, the natural functions of the body get disturbed. The pancreas secretes insulin into the blood to control blood sugar.

Insulin is also responsible for the uptake of sugar by the body cells. Sugar intake by the cells is essential as sugar is the energy source for cells. Any disturbance in the sugar level and insulin may cause diabetes. 

Type 2 Diabetes

The main cause of type 2 diabetes is:

  • Overeating
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Genetic factors

Lack of exercise or physical activity leads to overweight or obesity conditions. In this type of diabetes, insulin production occurs, but the body becomes insulin resistant; as a result, cells don’t utilize insulin properly. It is because the insulin sensitivity of the cells in the body decreases. This may increase blood glucose levels.

Increased belly fat is also an important factor responsible for the cause of type 2 diabetes.

Research has shown that type 2 diabetes is also connected with family history. This means if any family member is diagnosed with diabetes, there is more chance of type 2 diabetes in other family members.

Some ethnic groups have shown a trend of type 2 diabetes running in their families. These include:

  • Pacific Islanders
  • Asian Americans
  • Alaska Natives
  • American Indians
  • African Americans
  • Native Hawaiians

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is related to the immune system. The immune system works as a defence mechanism to protect the body from the attack of foreign infections. The situation is normal till the immune system destroys infectious viruses and bacteria. Once the immune system starts to kill their cells, especially beta cells1, mistakenly as a virus or bacteria, it results in little or no insulin production.

Beta cells are present in clusters in the pancreas, making insulin. The continuous destruction of beta cells by the immune system results in the decrease of insulin, and an increase in the blood glucose levels that cause type 1 diabetes. Hence, it is clear that the body cannot produce insulin without beta cells.

The researchers have not clarified the reason for this destruction of beta cells. Research is still going on to know more about this autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes.

Sometimes genetic and environmental factors are also responsible for type 1 diabetes. The presence of certain genes causes type 1 diabetes.

3. Risk factors

Type 2 diabetes

Although various research has been done on type 2 diabetes, the exact reason for its cause is still unclear.

The most common risk factors are:

  • Fatty tissues
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Race or ethnicity
  • High blood glucose
  • High blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

With the increase in age, the risk of type 2 diabetes also increases. Both high blood pressure and high blood sugar 2are directly linked with each other; one of them may lead to another.

Type 1 Diabetes

The most concerning risk factor for type 1 diabetes is genetics. There are some specific genes found only in type 1 diabetic patients. This shows that these genes are responsible for type 1 diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetic persons show positive results for diabetes autoantibodies. These autoantibodies in family history increase the risk of type 1 diabetes. That means if any family member has type 1 diabetes, then the chances of your being diabetic are high.

Geographical conditions are also responsible for type 1 diabetes. It has been observed that the risk of type 1 diabetes is higher in those places that are away from the equator. Well more research needs to be done to prove this thing.

4. Diagnosis

What is the difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes? Let us have a look at the differences based on the diagnosis. For any disease control, it is important to diagnose it.

Diagnosis will help to understand the nature of the disease; it is only after diagnosis; it becomes easy to cure or treat that disease. Similar to diabetes, once you see the symptoms of diabetes, you must go for a diagnosis to ensure what type of diabetes you have. 

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common test for the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is the glycated haemoglobin (A1C) test. This test calculates the blood sugar level and gives the estimations in percentage. If the A1C level is 6.5 or higher, you have type 2 diabetes.

The diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is essential because its symptoms are not visible at early stages. That’s why you need to go for regular blood sugar level tests. If you are above 45 years old, blood sugar tests are essential to do regularly, as the risk of type 2 diabetes increases after that.

Type 1 Diabetes

The first diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is blood glucose monitoring. For this, the physicians or doctors have done random blood sugar tests. If the test shows a blood sugar level of around 200 milligrams per deciliter, that suggests type 1 diabetes is present in the tested person.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are visible in the early stages. If you’re having symptoms of type 1 diabetes, you should go for check-ups and blood sugar tests.

Diabetes test
By Marco Verch, Professional Photographer on Flickr @Some Rights Reserved

Common Tests for Diagnosing Diabetes

Here are some common tests that will help to diagnose diabetes. 

  • Fasting plasma glucose test (FPG)

This test has been conducted mostly in the morning for accurate results or may also be done 8-12 hours after the eating or food intake. Fasting means you should not eat or drink before the test except for water.

  • A1C test

This test is the best and most often used to monitor blood sugar levels. A1C level 3depicts the risk of diabetes. If it is below 5.7%, then the person is normal, but above 5.7% increases the chances of diabetes. A1C levels higher than 6.4% indicate type 2 diabetes.

  • Random plasma glucose test (RPG)

This test checks the amount of glucose circulating in the blood. It is conducted at any time whether you have eaten or not. That’s why it is known as a random plasma glucose test.

The normal range of random plasma glucose tests will be 125 mg/dL. This is a quick test usually done by doctors for type 1 diabetic patients.

  • Screening

Screening is essential for those who have type 2 diabetes. It is also recommended for those who are having symptoms of diabetes. Whenever you find diabetic symptoms, you have to get screened for diabetes.

According to the American diabetes association, routine screening is a must for all adults especially type 2 diabetes. Other peoples for whom routine screening is necessary are overweight or obese people, gestational diabetic women, and children with a family history of diabetes.

5. Treatment

If both types of diabetes are different from each other, then it is certain that their treatment will also be further. Based on treatment, we can check the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

The best way or treatment for type 2 diabetes is to take a healthy diet and live a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, weight loss, lifestyle changes, daily insulin injections, and diabetes medications help control type 2 diabetes.

Some drugs for treating type 2 diabetes are Metformin, Sulfonylureas, Glinides, Thiazolidinediones4, and SGLT2 inhibitors.

Type 1 Diabetes

In this type of diabetes, it is recommended to maintain normal blood glucose levels. For that, insulin injections are given to diabetic 5people. Taking insulin is not the only treatment for this type of diabetes.

Other therapies include eating healthy food, lifestyle changes, exercising to lose weight, and regular monitoring of blood glucose levels. The treatment of type 1 diabetes is to maintain the blood glucose level to normal between 80-130 mg/dL before the meal and < 180 mg/dL after dinner.

In the End

These are the major differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Now, you will understand a lot about both types of diabetes through this article.

If you want to know more about diabetes, let me know in the comment section.

Understanding the Prevalence of Diabetes in the US Statistics and Trends
Icy Health
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  3. Huang, Shih-Hao, et al. “Hemoglobin A1c levels associated with age and gender in Taiwanese adults without prior diagnosis with diabetes.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18.7 (2021): 3390. ↩︎
  4. Hurren, Kathryn M., and Marissa Waldman Dunham. “Are thiazolidinediones a preferred drug treatment for type 2 diabetes?.” Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 22.2 (2021): 131-133. ↩︎
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Laveleena Sharma

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