The Difference Between Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes

Posted Dec 2, 2011 | Posted in Diseases & Treatments

Diabetes mellitus is a disease marked by elevated blood sugar levels. It prevents the body from properly producing insulin, a hormone used to convert sugar and starch into energy. Ultimately, diabetes deprives the body of its day-to-day energy needs. Although treatable with dietary alterations, exercise and insulin injections, diabetes does not have a cure. Diabetes affects approximately 17 million Americans, which equates to roughly eight percent of the population. Public health officials consider it one of the top health crises in the U.S.

There are two main forms of the disease: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Although they stem from the same problem, each form of the disease affects the body in starkly different ways.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is commonly found in children and is often referred to as “juvenile-onset diabetes.” Although there are associated genetic risk factors and possible viral triggers, the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes remains unknown. This form of the illness is a misfiring autoimmune response that causes the body to mistakenly destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, known as islets. In a healthy body, when food is consumed, the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream. The insulin acts as a gatekeeper, allowing glucose to enter cells, providing muscles and tissues with energy. As a result of the glucose absorption, insulin effectively lowers the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. However, in Type 1 diabetes, this process is irrelevant because the body lacks insulin. Rather than being absorbed, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar can cause damage to the eyes, heart and other organs. Until 1922, when scientists discovered the significance of insulin, Type 1 diabetes was almost always fatal. Although it remains a serious condition, the disease is manageable with daily insulin injections. For that reason, it’s sometimes called “insulin-dependent diabetes.”‘

Symptoms Include:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision, inability to focus 

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent, accounting for approximately 95 percent of diabetes cases. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, a person with Type 2 diabetes produces insulin, but cells don’t recognize or respond to it as they should. An exact cause is unknown, though there are direct links between Type 2 diabetes and obesity, lack of exercise and advanced age. Type 2 usually affects people later in life and develops slowly, which is why it’s often referred to as “slow-onset diabetes.” Although there is no cure, Type 2 diabetes does not require insulin injections, and can usually be managed with proper nutrition, physical activity and weight loss.

Symptoms Include:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination.
  • Increased appetite 
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed healing process and frequent infections
  • Darkened areas of skin

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