While it is true that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes both have higher than normal blood sugar levels, the cause and development of the two types of diabetes are different.
Type 1 diabetes is known as an autoimmune disorder. It happens when the body’s immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin.
On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disorder. Rather, it occurs as a result of insulin resistance, meaning the body still makes insulin but can't use it properly, or as a result of insulin deficiency, which means that insulin production is decreased.
In Canada there are approximately 300,000 people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This is about 10% of all people diagnosed with both types of diabetes in Canada. Type 1 diabetes usually appears between early childhood and adolescence.
Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age but usually appears in adulthood. However, we are seeing an increase in children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Currently, there are over 3 million people living with type 2 diabetes in Canada, and more than 6 million people living with prediabetes.
Common differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes:
|Type 1 diabetes||Type 2 diabetes|
|Most often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence||Usually diagnosed in adults over 40|
|Not associated with excess body weight||Often associated with excess body weight|
|Always treated with insulin||Initially treated with medication tablets, and injectable medications, such as insulin, later. In some instances, insulin may be prescribed at diagnosis.|
|It cannot be prevented||For some people, it can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle|
Differences in symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes:
The first symptoms of type 1 diabetes appear when the blood sugar gets too high. Type 1 diabetes symptoms often arise quickly and may include intense thirst, hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, blurred vision and slow healing cuts.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes do not start as suddenly as symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Symptoms many not show up for many years meaning the disease may have been hurting the body before a person realizes it. When symptoms do appear, they are often the same as the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and can also include frequent infections and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
Treatment of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes:
People with type 1 diabetes always inject insulin using an insulin pen, syringe or insulin pump. When taken in conjunction with a healthy diet, an exercise program and regular blood glucose monitoring, people with type 1 diabetes can reach their diabetes management goals and live well.
Treatment of type 2 diabetes also begins with proper nutrition, exercise and blood glucose monitoring, but usually starts with oral medication, but in some instances may include insulin. Over time, the person with type 2 diabetes may use more than one oral medication and may also start taking insulin or other injectable medications.