Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes

Written by Phil Rossi

NowRx Pharmacy

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes Blog Image

Diabetes is a serious health condition that affects roughly 37.3M Americans. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and costs an estimated $300B+ in medical costs, lost work, and wages.

There are two main types of diabetes that affect people of all ages – Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Although, both are defined by deficiencies in our body with respect to insulin there are some key differences that characterize each.

Let’s take a look at type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Simply put, diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way our bodies regulate blood sugar levels.

Here’s how it works.

When we eat, our body breaks most of the food down into glucose (sugar) and releases it into the bloodstream.

Generally, this rise in blood glucose would trigger insulin production, which would tell our cells to take in glucose for energy production.

However, in somebody with diabetes, their body either can’t produce enough insulin or they are unable to use it properly.

This results in blood glucose levels that are too high, which over time can cause serious health problems such as heart diseasevision loss, and kidney disease.

The most common forms of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little to no insulin.

It occurs when your immune system attacks the insulin producing beta cells in your pancreatic islets, which inhibits the body’s ability to produce insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is the result of genetic predisposition and some viruses, although the exact role each plays is somewhat unknown.

Around 5-10% of diabetics have Type 1 diabetes and they are dependent on taking insulin everyday to survive.

Type 1 Diabetes Causes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when our immune system attacks the cells in our pancreas that make insulin which suppressed the body’s ability to produce insulin.

Although, there is no single inherited gene that indicates you’re going to develop Type 1 diabetes, we know that a number of genes increase predisposition toward the disease.

The more of these genes you inherit, the more likely it is you will develop Type 1 diabetes.

However, even in identical twins, one twin may develop the disease while the other does not indicating something more than just genetic predisposition plays a role.

There is a lot that is still unknown about the origin of Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

The onset of Type 1 diabetes can be extremely sudden and in some cases life threatening.

For example, diabetic ketoacidosis is sometimes the first sign people notice in Type 1 diabetes and can lead to a diabetic coma or even death if left untreated.

Other early signs of Type 1 diabetes symptoms may include:

  • Polydipsia or increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling very hungry despite eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Weight loss
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal

Recognizing these signs early and getting treatment can decrease the risk of developing complications of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

At the moment, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes.

That means, people with Type 1 diabetes need lifelong insulin therapy in order to survive.

Right now, the only way to get insulin into the body is by injection with a needle or insulin pump.

There are many different types of insulin which differ in production, function, strength, and even how much they cost.

A few examples of different types of insulin include:

  • Short-acting (regular) insulin like Humulin R and Novolin R
  • Rapid-acting insulin like Apidra and Humalog
  • Intermediate-acting (NPH) insulin like Humulin N and Novolin N
  • Long-acting insulin like Lantus and Levemir

Your doctor will help you figure out which type of insulin is right for your specific needs.

Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Similar to Type 1, Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way our bodies regulate blood sugar levels. However, while Type 1 diabetics are unable to produce insulin, people with Type 2 are unable to use insulin properly.

Remember, insulin tells our cells to take in glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream for energy production.

So, whether our body underproduces insulin or is unable to use it properly, both result in the same problem – too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream.

About 90-95% of people with diabetes have Type 2.

Type 2 Diabetes Causes

Unlike Type 1, Type 2 diabetes develops over time.

Formerly known as adult onset diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is generally first diagnosed in adults.

However, in recent years that has changed as more children, teens, and young adults are being diagnosed with the disease.

In fact, Type 2 is almost as prevalent as Type 1 diabetes in American teenagers.

Type 2 diabetes primarily occurs as the result of obesity and poor exercise habits, however some people have a greater genetic predisposition to the disease.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Family History
  • Obesity or excess weight
  • Inactivity
  • Poor Diet
  • Age
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Prediabetes

Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms

The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may be similar to those of Type 1 but are often less obvious.

As a result, the disease may go undiagnosed until years after onset once complications have arisen.

Common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Polydipsia or increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling very hungry despite eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet

If left untreated, Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious complications including kidney damage, eye damage, or an increased risk for heart disease and stoke.

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

Many people can manage Type 2 diabetes by eating healthier and exercising more.

However, when these lifestyle changes are not enough, an oral medication like metformin is prescribed.

Metformin works to control blood sugar levels by decreasing glucose production in the liver, increasing the insulin sensitivity of your cells and suppressing appetite.

And if this still isn’t enough, your doctor may prescribe insulin injections.

Regardless of the interventions being used, lifestyle changes such as improved diet and increased exercise remain essential to managing Type 2 diabetes.

Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Reversed?

Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured but it can be reversed.

In other words, you can lower blood sugar levels to non-diabetes ranges and keep them there without medication.

However, the damage that has been done to the beta cells that produce insulin is permanent and the underlying factors contributing to their original disease progression still remain in place.

Despite that, through a combination of dietary changes and physical activity Type 2 diabetics can reverse their disease progression and prevent further complications.

Here are a couple suggestions to help you reverse Type 2 diabetes progression:

  • Eat Healthier. Try to choose foods that are lower in saturated fat and calories. Replace these with foods that are nutrient dense and high in fiber. Examples would be fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and leans sources of protein like chicken.
  • Get Active. Any increase in your level of activity is good but try to aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, 5 days/week. Find exercise that you enjoy doing as you will be more likely to stick with it over the long term. Some examples might be walking or jogging, biking, or even just cleaning around the house!

Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

The key difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes relates to how patients make and utilize insulin.

Patients with Type 1 diabetes produce little to no insulin and must depend on external insulin to survive. This is the result of an autoimmune reaction that attacks the cells responsible for making insulin.

Patients with Type 2 diabetes aren’t as receptive to insulin, and therefore too much glucose can accumulate in the bloodstream. This is typically the result of obesity or lack of exercise.

Learning to Live With Diabetes

Left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health complications.

However, by listening to your doctor’s recommendations, eating healthier and finding ways to get active you can help manage your condition.

Talk to your doctor to discuss your options and figure out what is the best strategy for your health needs.

If you have questions about insulin or diabetes medication price, accessibility, etc. please reach out to us at and we will be happy to help!

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