Q. What are the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
A. Twenty-nine million Americans live with diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diabetes is an abnormality in the body's blood-sugar levels caused by the body's inability to produce enough insulin. As a result, the body will have high levels of sugar in the blood, as insulin is responsible for converting starches, sugar, and other food into the energy your body needs to properly function.
Type 1 diabetes, which usually is initially diagnosed in patients younger than 40, indicates the pancreas is not producing enough insulin. It's considered an autoimmune disease, because the immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the body incorrectly and targets insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes, most often first diagnosed in patients 40 and older, occurs when the body isn't able to properly process the insulin it produces. This is known as insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas produces extra insulin, but over time, it won't be able to keep blood sugar at normal levels.
Symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar and include thirst, extreme hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, weight loss, numbness or tingling in the extremities, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and non-healing wounds. However, type 1 symptoms develop rapidly, where type 2 symptoms can start slowly.
Treatment is significantly different for the two types of diabetes. Those with type 1 often need to inject themselves with insulin to make up for the loss of those cells. People living with type 2 diabetes can often achieve the target blood sugar level with diet and exercise alone. However, some may need to take medications or injections.
There is no way to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising is the best prevention strategy against type 2 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, the most important thing you can do is monitor blood sugar levels and stay in touch with your doctor if your condition changes.
- Omeche Idoko, M.D., is a primary-care physician with Mercy Family Healthcare Services