Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both occur when the body cannot properly store and use glucose, which is essential for energy. Sugar, or glucose, collects in the blood and does not reach the cells that need it, which can lead to serious complications.
Type 1 diabetes usually appears first in children and adolescents, but it can occur in older people, too. The immune system attacks the pancreatic beta cells so that they can no longer produce insulin. There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and it is often hereditary. Around 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Type 2 diabetes is more likely to appear as people age, but many children are now starting to develop it. In this type, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body cannot use it effectively. Lifestyle factors appear to play a role in its development. According to the CDC, around 90–95 percent of people with diabetes have this type.
Both types of diabetes can lead to complications, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, vision loss, neurological conditions, and damage to blood vessels and organs.
The CDC estimate that over 30 million people in the United States probably have diabetes, but 25 percent of them do not know they have it.
Another type is gestational diabetes. This occurs in pregnancy and typically resolves after childbirth, but some people then develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
This article will look at the differences and similarities between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 and type 2 have different causes, but they both involve insulin.
Insulin is a type of hormone. The pancreas produces it to regulate the way blood sugar becomes energy.
Type 1 diabetes
In this type, scientists believe that the immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin. They do not know what causes this to happen, but childhood infections may play a role.
The immune system destroys these cells, which means that the body can no longer make enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. A person with type 1 diabetes will need to use supplemental insulin from the time they receive the diagnosis and for the rest of their life.
Type 1 often affects children and young adults, but it can happen later in life. It can start suddenly, and it tends to worsen quickly.
Risk factors include:
having a family history of diabetes
being born with certain genetic features that affect the way the body produces or uses insulin
possibly, exposure to some infections or viruses, such as mumps or rubella cytomegalovirus
Type 2 diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells start to resist the effects of insulin. In time, the body stops producing enough insulin, so it can no longer use glucose effectively.
This means glucose cannot enter the cells. Instead, it builds up in the blood.
This is called insulin resistance.
It can happen when the person always or often has high blood glucose. When the body’s cells are overexposed to insulin, they become less responsive to it, or maybe they no longer respond at all.
Symptoms may take years to appear. People may use medications, diet, and exercise from the early stages to reduce the risk or slow the disease.
In the early stages, a person with type 2 diabetes does not need supplemental insulin. As the disease progresses, however, they may need it to manage their blood glucose levels in order to stay healthy.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
having a family member with type 2 diabetes
following an unhealthful diet
a lack of exercise
the use of some medications, including some anti-seizure drugs and some medications for HIV
People from certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. These include Black and Hispanic people, Native American Indians and Native Alaskans, Pacific Islanders, and some people of Asian origin, according to the CDC.
Genetic and environmental factors may trigger both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but many people may be able to avoid type 2 by making healthful lifestyle choices.
Research has also suggested that some other environmental factors might play a role.
A review published in 2017 suggests that when a person lacks vitamin D, certain processes in the body, such as immune function and insulin sensitivity, do not work as well as they should. According to scientists, this may increase a person’s risk of diabetes.
The primary source of vitamin D is exposure to sunshine. Food sources include oily fish and fortified dairy products.
Some researchers have suggested that giving an infant only breastmilk, even for a short time, might help prevent type 1 diabetes in the future.
A review published in 2012 concluded that there might be “weak protective associations” between exclusively breastfeeding and type 1 diabetes. However, there was not enough evidence to prove that a link exists.