Differences Between Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes

Differences Between Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes

With just a single-digit between them, it’s no wonder people get confused about type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The two conditions have lots of things in common, but there are also many differences between them.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both affect the way your body deals with carbohydrates in the food you eat. They both lead to glucose levels in your blood rising and, if uncontrolled, can cause progressive damage to your eye, kidneys, heart, blood vessels and nerves. 

But type 1 and type 2 have different causes, different risk factors, different treatments and different things that are happening in the body. 


How common are type 1 and type 2 diabetes?


Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1. It affects 90% of everyone living with diabetes, whereas only 7-8% of people with diabetes have type 1.


What’s happening in the body in type 1 and type 2 diabetes?


Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. The body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Your body can’t make any insulin. You will need insulin replacement therapy to regulate your blood glucose levels and allow your body cells to get the glucose energy they need to function and stay alive. 

If you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin for its needs, or your body is resistant to the effects of the insulin produced. 

The result of both types is too little insulin and rising blood glucose levels, so they are both serious conditions. High blood sugar levels can cause serious short term and long term complications so both types of diabetes need to be managed carefully.  


Age to develop type 1 and type 2 diabetes


Type 1 diabetes can affect people of any age, from babies to the elderly. However, it more commonly develops in children and young people. The mean age of diagnosis is 13. 

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. It is more common in people over 40 years of age. However, it is linked to obesity and with increasing levels of obesity in children, more young people are developing type 2 diabetes.


Risk factors for type 1 and type 2 diabetes


At the moment, we don’t know what causes type 1 diabetes. A tendency to develop diabetes can run in some families, and several risky genes have been identified. Type 1 diabetes doesn’t appear to be linked to your weight, your lifestyle or your diet. Researchers believe there may be a genetic vulnerability together with an environmental trigger such as a virus. Scientists are also exploring the links between natural gut bacteria and type 1 diabetes. 

Several factors can put you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is strongly associated with being overweight or obese. Your ethnicity, age and family history can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Risk factors include:

  • Growing older
  • Ethnicity: People of African-Caribbean, Black African, Hispanic, Pacific Island or South Asian heritage are more likely to get type 2 diabetes
  • A family history of diabetes- you are 2-6 times more likely to get diabetes if a close family member is also affected
  • Hypertension
  • Raised cholesterol
  • Being overweight, obese or having a high body fat
  • Carrying excess weight around your middle
  • Previous history of gestational diabetes
  • Chronic stress
  • Drugs such as corticosteroids


Symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes


Diabetes has some symptoms that can affect people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, type 1 diabetes symptoms tend to come on much more quickly, especially in children.

In type 2 diabetes, the symptoms may be more subtle. They may come on more gradually and can be easier to miss. Symptoms include: 

  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Passing more urine
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Blurred vision 
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Cuts, spots and grazes take a long time to heal
  • Feeling more hungry
  • Recurrent infections

If type 1 diabetes isn’t picked up and treated promptly, the body can burn fat as an energy source. Acidic by-products called ketones can build up in the blood, which can cause a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis that needs emergency medical treatment. Symptoms include:

  • Fruity smelling breath- the ketones smell like pear drops or nail varnish remover
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Feeling weak and lethargic
  • Unconsciousness and coma
  • Deep and laboured pattern of breathing


Treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes


People with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin to control their blood sugar levels.

People with type 2 can use different ways to manage their diabetes. Treatments include:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Oral medication including Metformin, sulfonylureas, gliptins, Acarbose, prandial glucose regulators and SGLT2s
  • Insulin therapy: Type 2 diabetes can be progressive, with your body gradually producing less insulin. Over time you may need to inject insulin to achieve the best control


Prevention of type 1and type 2 diabetes


Experts don’t currently know any way to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, you may be able to reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, even if your family history or ethnic background make you vulnerable to the condition. The WHO says:

A healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use are ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.  Diabetes can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity, medication and regular screening and treatment for complications.


Curing type 1 and type 2 diabetes


Currently, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but scientists are actively researching possible treatments, including immunotherapies that could prevent the body’s immune system from damaging the beta cells in the pancreas. 

We can’t cure type 2 diabetes. But it is possible to put type 2 diabetes into remission and achieve normal blood sugar levels, without medication, by losing weight and making lifestyle changes,


To find out more about effective diabetes medications, or to speak to one of our specialists at the London Diabetes Centre about prospective treatment options, contact us today.





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Carol Willis - Diabetes Clinic Facilitator

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