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Which is Worse Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

This article is your 101 guide about which is worse type 1 or type 2 diabetes. But before that, we will understand in depth what diabetes is.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, a blood sugar disorder, is a common word for several conditions revolving around how your body changes food into energy.

When we consume carbohydrates, our body turns them into a sugar called glucose which is then sent into the bloodstream. The Pancreas releases insulin. It aids in moving glucose from the blood into the cells to be used for energy.

If a person has diabetes, the body does not utilize insulin as it should. Too much glucose stays in the blood, which leads to high blood sugar. This paves the way for major health complications.

Currently, there is no cure for this disease, but with treatment and lifestyle changes, one can lead a long and healthy life.1

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Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Why does diabetes Occur?

Neither too much insulin nor too little insulin is good for the body’s functioning. Diabetes occurs when insufficient insulin is in the body, or the existing insulin cannot move the glucose.

Hence, eventually, excess sugar builds up in the blood. This condition causes diabetes.

What is Blood Sugar? What is its Normal Level?

Diabetes affects the tendency of the body to take in blood glucose into the cells. Without insulin, the blood glucose level exceeds the average blood sugar levels.

Glucose is a form of sugar that the body needs to function and produce energy. When blood glucose moves from the bloodstream to the body, it is utilized by the body cells to generate power. Insulin, produced by the Pancreas, is required to take in the blood glucose and aid in energy production.

Hence, the body produces energy using fast-acting insulin.

Average Blood Glucose Levels

The average blood sugar level for adults is less than 140 mg/dL. However, for children between the ages of 6 to 12 and under 6 years, it is 90 to 120 mg/dL and 80 to 100 mg/dL, respectively.

Prediabetic Blood Glucose Levels 

You might be prediabetic if the reading is between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL.

Diabetic Blood Glucose levels

Any reading more than 200 mg/dL is considered to be diabetic. If the reading exceeds 500 mg/dL, the person is at risk of coma.

What is Prediabetes?

Diabetes is of different types due to differences in the causes. Prediabetes2 is a condition in which the blood sugar levels are higher than average but not high enough to diagnose diabetes3.

Prediabetes makes you more prone to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight4 can lower the risks.

As per a report, approximately 96 million adults in America, i.e., 1 in 3 Americans, have prediabetes. Of these people. About 79% are unaware of their condition.

The positive thing about prediabetes is that it can be reversed with simple changes in the way of living. One can decrease prediabetes and reduce the risk of it changing into type 2 diabetes by controlling the sugar intake.

Not taking sugary fruits and drinks, bringing down the body weight, cutting down the number of carbs taken, and staying away from canned food loaded with preservatives are some effective measures to reduce prediabetes.

The Key Difference Between Type 1 and 2 Diabetes

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have a similar name but differ in all facets. Type 1 diabetes is called juvenile diabetes since it develops early in life. It is an autoimmune condition.5

Type 2 diabetes is adult-onset diabetes that evolves with time. It is related to causes like being overweight or living an unhealthy, inactive life. Its primary cause is genetic factors and family diabetic history.

Most children who have diabetes have type 1 diabetes. People above 40 are less likely to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Although it is less common, it might occur.

About Type 1 Diabetes

Earlier known as juvenile-onset diabetes, an autoimmune reaction causes type 1 diabetes. The body’s immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign germs. In such a scenario, the immune system of the body starts to attack the body’s cells.

The beta cells present in the Pancreas as responsible for insulin production. The immune system of the body destroys the insulin-generating beta cells of the body. The body attacks the Pancreas with antibodies. Due to fewer insulin-producing cells, the body is deprived of enough insulin.

Diet and lifestyle habits do not affect type 1 diabetes. It is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes and often commences in childhood.

Type 1 diabetes leads to many other serious complications like damage to the tiny blood vessels of the eye (diabetic retinopathy), nerves (diabetic neuropathy), and kidneys (diabetic nephropathy). There is also an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

The condition where the eyes are damaged due to diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. Similarly, the damage to nerves and kidneys due to diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy and diabetic nephropathy, respectively.

About Type 2 Diabetes- Insulin Resistance

Type 2 diabetes is a case of insulin resistance. Although enough insulin is produced by the insulin-producing beta cells, the body lacks in using it. In this case, the body cannot use the produced insulin effectively.

There is no proven reason why this occurs. Insulin resistance occurs when fatty tissue, liver cells, and muscle cells cannot respond to insulin production.

It is also called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. In such a case, the body cells produce insulin, but it does not get used up as it should be or is not enough.

Diabetes medicines and other tools
By: Mykenzie Johnson/ Unsplash

How much Insulin is Produced in a Healthy Body?

The amount of insulin produced in a lean, healthy individual is between 18 and 40 U per day. Anything less than or more than this is harmful to the body.

Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is generally seen as a genetic condition called juvenile-onset diabetes, while type 2 diabetes is believed to develop over time. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes show up faster as compared to type 2 diabetes. It is more of a lifestyle-related disease.

However, it needs to be noted that both are just as serious as the other. They are each capable of causing severe health complications.

Hence, early diagnosis and suitable treatment for the blood sugar level 6must be undertaken.

Which is worse type 1 or type 2 diabetes?
By: Matt C/ Unsplash

Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms show up faster for type 1 as compared to type 2. In some cases, type 2 diabetes remains undiagnosed for years because of no signs.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes share the same common symptoms. These include:

  • request urge to urinate, especially at the night
  • feeling more thirsty than usual
  • blurred vision
  • wounds and cuts, if they occur, take longer to heal
  • losing weight without any efforts
  • itching or thrush in the genital area
  • feeling weak and tired faster than usual
  • presence of ketones in the urine
  • having slow-healing sores
  • skin becomes too dry
  • numb or tingling feet

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes appear late, which leads to an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). There have been cases of undiagnosed type 2 diabetes for 10 years.

If you ever observe these symptoms, you should rush to a doctor and get a blood test immediately.

Why are these the Symptoms?

That might sound like an absurd question, but it is not. Each symptom of diabetes has an explanation for its occurrence.

Since less energy is produced in the body, one feels tired. This condition leads to fatigue and weakness. Frequent urination leads to draining good salts and glucose from the body.

Since excess glucose and fluids are excreted in the urine, the body gets short of energy. This leads to the feeling of dehydration. Eventually, you feel thirsty. Diabetic people are bound to feel a dry mouth. High blood sugar leads to itching of the skin.

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

If a person reports the symptoms of diabetes,7 a blood sugar test is done to determine the presence of diabetes. It is diagnosed by checking the glucose levels in a blood test.

There are three ways to check this: a random glucose test, an A1c test, and a fasting glucose test. These tests can also identify the type of Diabetes one has- type 1 or 2.

Another method to check for diabetes is through a urine test. This was earlier used to diagnose diabetes but is not as accurate as a blood test.

The most common method is a fasting blood sugar test. It is normal if the blood sugar level is below 100 mg/dL. However, a reading of 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL is considered prediabetic. If it is 126 mg/dL or higher in two consecutive tests, that confirms the presence of diabetes in the individual.

Treatment of Diabetes

Treatment of type 1 diabetes

It includes taking insulin into the tissue through insulin pumps under the skin. Syringes, pens, jet injectors, and pumps are used for the same.

Insulin pens are made of cartridges and a thin needle, while pumps send insulin through a tube to a catheter present beneath the skin of the belly.

The treatment also involves careful meal planning, daily exercise, and frequent testing of blood sugar levels.

Treatment of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes needs medication just in severe cases. A healthy lifestyle, eating right, and exercising are mostly carried out to prevent complications. Losing Weight and diet are ways to keep type 2 diabetes under control.

The Risk Factors associated with diabetes

Despite the medical and technological advancements in today’s modern era, scientists and doctors have still not concluded why type 1 diabetes occurs. The body’s ability to attack its cells that produce insulin has no explanation.

People with no weight management and diabetic family history are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Ethnic background, age, family history, and being obese are more likely to put you at risk of type 2 diabetes. If someone from your immediate family has diabetes, it puts you at high risk.

Can Diabetes be Prevented?

Lifestyle changes are considered an effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes. However, no such method has been proven to prevent type 1 diabetes.8

Consuming foods that contain excess sugar may also increase the risk factors associated with diabetes. These include

  • sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, juice, sports drinks, and sweet tea
  • sweeteners like sugar, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup
  • foods rich in trans fat like fried foods, vegetable shortening, dairy products, partially hydrogenated oils
  • processed foods like chips, microwave popcorn, processed meat

How Common is this Disease?

About 90% of the people who have diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

According to the national diabetes statistics, people who are obese with more than 20% over their body weight have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and the health complications that can follow. This is why doctors advise regular exercise to prevent weight gain.

More and more people get diagnosed with type 2 in the United Kingdom each year.

About 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, i.e., approximately 37 million Americans. Most of them suffer from type 2 diabetes. Those who suffer from type 1 are significantly fewer in number.

Initially, people above 45 were at an increased risk of this disease. But, today, as the lifestyle changes, more teens and young adults are becoming prone to catching diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

It is another common disease associated with diabetes. It is caused during pregnancy when the body becomes insulin resistant. If this scenario degrades further, it might turn into diabetes.

It is often diagnosed during middle or late pregnancy. A woman’s blood sugar travels to the baby via the placenta. Hence, keeping gestational diabetes in control is crucial for the growth and development of a healthy baby.

Know more about Gestational Diabetes 

According to the American Diabetes Association, 2% to 10% of pregnancies report this condition. It generally gets better after birth. But about 10% of women develop type 2 diabetes over time.

It is an increased risk for the child as compared to the mother. It might lead to unusual weight loss or weight gain, trouble breathing at birth, and high blood sugar levels at birth or in the following years.

The treatment of this condition generally involves taking insulin to control blood sugar levels, exercising daily, and carefully planning a healthy diet.

Healthy Weight and other ways to Reduce the Risk of Diabetes

As mentioned above, one must not consume foods that contain excess sugars. Moreover, one must maintain a normal weight according to height (a healthy BMI).

Doing a workout regularly, eating a balanced diet, avoiding packed-processed foods, and reducing carbohydrate intake can also aid in disease control.

One must not indulge in smoking because it leads to more insulin in the body. Including fiber in your diet, increasing water intake, and reducing portion size are effective ways to avoid diabetes.

As per recent research, living a life of excess stress can also lead to this disease. According to the study, stress can hamper the work of the beta cells of the Pancreas, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Another thing to look out for is alcohol intake.

Another factor to remember is taking a sound sleep for the minimum required number of hours per the age group.

Decreased sleep is another reason for increased sugar in the blood. Not sleeping for the proper hours for a prolonged time may increase the risk of diabetes since it leads to insulin resistance.

The Bottom Line- Which is Worse, Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

Now that you have looked at the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, their causes, treatment, and the associated risk factors, you might conclude that both type 1 diabetes and type 2 are equally life-threatening.

The building up of sugar in the bloodstream, the inability of insulin to function, and the lack of energy production in the body are all associated with diabetes.

Although type 2 diabetes is milder than type 1 diabetes, both lead to serious health issues in the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart- eventually leading to stroke or heart attack.

Thus, it becomes quintessential to take the necessary preventive measures and lower the risk of diabetes as far as possible. Early treatment of diabetes is also essential to avoid severe complications.

Although diabetes cannot be cured completely, proper medication, early treatment, and lifestyle changes can keep the blood glucose as normal as possible. This is an effective method to prevent health problems from developing later in life.

Thanks to the rapid advancements in medicinal technology, it is now possible to lead a happy, healthy, and long life even after being diagnosed with diabetes.

Nevertheless, both types of diabetes are a threat and cause major health complications. Everyone wishes to live a healthy life without having to visit hospitals and doctors regularly.

So, the next time you plan to indulge in binge-eating sugary foods and processed foods while being a couch potato with no exercise, watch out!

  1. World Health Organization. Preventing disease through healthy environments: exposure to lead: a major public health concern. No. WHO/CED/PHE/EPE/19.4. 7. World Health Organization, 2019. ↩︎
  2. Bansal, Nidhi. “Prediabetes diagnosis and treatment: A review.” World journal of diabetes 6.2 (2015): 296. ↩︎
  3. Inzucchi, Silvio E. “Diagnosis of diabetes.” New England Journal of Medicine 367.6 (2012): 542-550. ↩︎
  4. Peters, John C., et al. “From instinct to intellect: the challenge of maintaining healthy weight in the modern world.” Obesity reviews 3.2 (2002): 69-74. ↩︎
  5. Simakou, Teontor, et al. “Alopecia areata: A multifactorial autoimmune condition.” Journal of autoimmunity 98 (2019): 74-85. ↩︎
  7. Ramachandran, A. “Know the signs and symptoms of diabetes.” The Indian journal of medical research 140.5 (2014): 579. ↩︎
  8. Gillespie, Kathleen M. “Type 1 diabetes: pathogenesis and prevention.” Cmaj 175.2 (2006): 165-170. ↩︎

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