What’s the difference between diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2?

About 8 percent of Americans suffer from diabetes, but only 5% of them have Diabetes Type1. The rest 95% of diabetics belong to the order of Type2 diabetes. What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 of diabetes, what causes them, how do the symptoms and treatments differ and which might be more dangerous. Find out.

Diabetes type 1 and 2: What’s common?

Both forms of diabetes mellitus arise from a malfunctioning of the pancreas- the gland which produces insulin in our body. Because insulin helps the body’s cells convert sugar from our food into energy for use, malfunctioning of the pancreas means the glucose from food is no longer available/used up by the body’s cells in this manner. What happens next is the excess glucose starts building up in your bloodstream, increasing your blood sugar levels. Now when there’s high amounts of sugar in the blood, the kidneys filter sugar into the urine. In fact, the very name diabetes mellitus comes from Greek roots, and means making lots of sweet urine.

Diabetes early symptoms that are common to both forms include increased urination, hunger, thirst, fatigue and blurred vision from high doses of sugar in eye fluids.

Diabetes type 1 v/s type 2: What’s different?

Diabetes causes

In Type 1 diabetes (T1DM), the pancreas stop producing insulin. In an auto-immune reaction similar to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys beta cells of the pancreas that are responsible for generating insulin.

In Type 2 diabetes (T2DM), the pancreas produce insulin, but the muscles and other body tissues stop responding to it or using it appropriately. The cause of such resistance remains obscure, but they are thought to be caused by genetic factors in part and lifestyle factors like obesity, inactivity, poor diet etc.

“Finding out” you have diabetes

When the body starts developing resistance towards insulin in T2DM, the pancreas initially try to overcome resistance by producing more insulin. When their efforts at a reboot beat their capacity to produce the hormone, and the patient’s body is no longer able to make enough insulin, blood sugar goes up. So a person with T2DM may have had the malfunction for a long time before he actually realizes he has T2DM.

For T1DM, once the autoimmune response, starts destroying beta cells, the patient, in a relatively short time, has no insulin production- with the result that blood sugar spikes suddenly.

Onset of disease: Diabetes type 1 v/s 2

Usually, T1DM is diagnosed in children, hence called juvenile diabetes; whereas T2DM is diagnosed after age 40 (hence called adult onset diabetes.) But those boundaries are not watertight as many younger children are now getting type2 diabetes and more adults are being diagnosed with type1.

Diabetes symptoms

We’ve already seen some of the common diabetes symptoms for both forms. Early signs of type1 diabetes may also include weight loss, tingling or numbing sensations in the feet. Severe T1DM may also cause rapid breathing, nausea, dry skin and fruity breath.

For type2 diabetics, early symptoms may also include frequent infections, erectile dysfunction in men and pain or numbness in the limbs.

Symptoms of T1DM appear more suddenly, while those of T2DM show over time.

Diabetes treatment

Type1 diabetics must take insulin tablets, whereas for type2 diabetes, the disease can be controlled by diet, exercise and weight loss. Oral medication may be advised, but insulin is required only when, with time, the pancreas stops producing the hormone any more.

While T1DM patients must check their blood sugar levels about 4 times a day to know how much insulin to take, T2DM patients can do with checking their levels twice a day.

Diabetes complications

Ultimately, both forms of diabetes result in organ failure- complications of both forms include blindness, kidney failure, vascular disease, foot ulcers, neuropathy and heart attacks.

Which is more dangerous?

That’s a tough question to answer because both can have life-threatening complications, both are different and dangerous in diverse ways. To the extent that Type2 diabetes takes longer to determine and ravages the body for a long time before symptoms show up, it is more of a silent killer. But life-threatening complications like diabetic ketoacidosis are more common of Type1 diabetes. One could of course always point out diabetic coma on the other hand, a fatal complication occurring more frequently in patients with type2 diabetes. Which is more dangerous is difficult to say. But an Australian research seems to suggest that young-onset T2DM may be more deadly and associated with greater mortality and complications, when compared with T1DM.

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