Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes: The Beginner’s Guide
Over 20 million people in the U.S. are currently diagnosed with some form of diabetes. Diabetes can happen to adults and children, men and women. The symptoms can vary in type and intensity.
The two most common types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 and type 2. They have different causes but share some of the symptoms. Learn about these two kinds of diabetes so you can be on the lookout for the symptoms. If you or one of your family members has any of the symptoms, see your primary care physician for an exam. This is the only way to know for sure whether you actually have diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Normally, your body’s immune system attacks disease-producing cells that have entered your body, such as viruses and bacteria. The goal is to destroy those cells so they won’t cause a problem. Type 1 diabetes is a condition where your immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas responsible for manufacturing insulin.
This results in a decreased amount of insulin in the body. Because insulin moves sugar from the blood to cells (which use it for energy), without enough insulin, your cells are starved for energy and your blood sugar level is too high. The body tries to get rid of the excess sugar in different ways, causing symptoms like increased urination, dry mouth, dehydration, and weight loss.
Because the cells don’t get the energy from sugar, the body tries to generate energy by digesting fat cells. This can cause ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening. If not treated, type 1 diabetes can cause nerve, blood vessel, eye, kidney, and heart damage, some of which can be fatal.
Researchers don’t know definitively the cause for type 1 diabetes, but they suspect that something in the environment triggers the autoimmune system to attack the pancreatic cells. Physicians will do a blood and urine test to check the levels of ketones and insulin. There is no specific test, however, for type 1 diabetes.
The treatment of this type of diabetes includes a combination of the following:
• insulin injections
• blood sugar monitoring
• diet changes
• increased exercise
• regular checkups by your doctor to check for signs of damage to other parts of your body, such as your heart and kidneys
Type 2 Diabetes
This type of diabetes is the most common and affects more than 90 percent of the people diagnosed with diabetes. With this disease, either insufficient amounts of insulin are produced or the person’s body can’t use insulin efficiently. The term for this is “insulin resistance”.
As with type 1 diabetes, the cells don’t get enough sugar to function well, and so that sugar builds up in the blood. Because the body may be producing some insulin or may be using it to some degree, type 2 symptoms can come on slowly and remain unnoticed for a long time. Symptoms for type 2 diabetes may be similar to type 1 with the addition of:
• weakness and fatigue
• numbness of hands and feet
• skin or urinary tract infections
• cuts and scratches that are slow to heal
Researchers are still trying to understand what causes type 2 diabetes. Since this form can sometimes be controlled by diet, there could be many causes behind it, including environmental and food-based. Like type 1, your physician can diagnose you by testing your blood and urine to measure ketone and glucose (sugar) levels.
The treatment is similar to type 1 diabetes and can be a lifelong effort. Insulin, glucose-reducing medications, diet changes, and exercise are all part of the treatment. Regular exams are required to make sure other health issues don’t arise.
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